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The Columbia Review Releases a Review of Thomas Jefferson’s Enlightenment – Background Notes April 15 2015

From the author of “Thomas Jefferson’s Enlightenment – Paris 1785” (Commonwealth Books of Virginia, 2014) comes this wonderful companion volume of eighteen closely related assays: “Thomas Jefferson’s Enlightenment – Background Notes” by James C. Thompson (Commonwealth Books of Virginia, 2015).

As the author explains in his Opening Comment, in “Thomas Jefferson’s Enlightenment – Paris 1785” he sought to show “how the self- described savage from the mountains of America became immersed in the world’s most cultivated and elegant society.” On that journey, Jefferson is in Paris bearing close witness as the Assembly of Notables completes the process leading to the end of France’s bankrupt monarchy and the onset of a French constitutional government.

In this book, modestly entitled as “Background Notes,” Thompson beautifully enriches the first book with extensive commentaries, details and supplemental information.

The first seventeen assays expose the reader to various aspects of the Paris that Jefferson experienced from August 1784 to October 1789. Not a man to remain a passive observer, Jefferson immersed himself in the debates over social and economics ideas, the rights of man, and the needed political change. He experienced first hand the historic events as French society collapsed and the people stormed the Bastille. In the process, Jefferson himself was changed forever.

Most fascinating, in the eighteenth and final assay, the author traces the evolution of Jeffersonian historiography through the succeeding two centuries. This last assay contains a meticulous survey and a comprehensive analysis of much of the literature dealing with Jefferson’s philosophy. The author clearly traces the evolution of scholarship in that realm and demonstrates the emergence of a “new Jefferson” – most intriguing!

Many volumes have been written and published about the man who, more than anyone else, fueled the new American republic with his extraordinary intellectual creativity. James C. Thompson, in the two volumes culminating with this “Background Notes,” adds a fascinating, fresh perspective on the development and transformation of Jefferson’s political philosophy and ideological maturity.

Indeed, as the excellent last assay demonstrates, only through studying his Paris experience can we truly understand the man who returned to become the second president of the United States and, in many ways, transformed the nation in fundamental, lasting ways. This is an invaluable book to any student of President Thomas Jefferson, adding a wealth of new details and a deeper understanding of this most brilliant subject. Furthermore, the author’s expansive scholarly scope, coupled with careful substantiation, makes this book richly authentic and highly credible. Excellent!

Reviewed By: Avraham Azrieli
Avraham Azrieli writes novels and screenplays. His website is:

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James Thompson’s Banner Lecture at the Virginia Historical Society August 25 2014

You are invited to attend James Thompson’s Banner Lecture at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond on the 11th of September at 12 noon

At noon, author James C. Thompson will discuss his new book, Thomas Jefferson’s Enlightenment—Paris, 1785.

Thomas Jefferson arrived in Paris in August of 1784. He departed for home in the fall of 1789, a few weeks after the bloody beginning of the French Revolution. In the summer of 1785, during a series of excursions with brilliant young Pierre Cabanis, the self-described “savage from the mountains of America” prepared himself to circulate in the world’s most elegant society. James Thompson will describe the circles Jefferson entered and introduce a few of the lumieres he met in them. He accompanies his comments with colorful slides.

James C. Thompson is the author of The Birth of Virginia’s Aristocracy (2009), and The Dubious Achievement of the 1st Continental Congress (2011). Thomas Jefferson’s EnlightenmentBackground Notes and The First Revolutions in the Minds of the People are scheduled for release this fall. Mr. Thompson holds degrees in Philosophy from Mr. Jefferson’s University.

Bring a brownbag lunch to nibble on while you learn about Thomas Jefferson’s enlightenment. Please arrive in time to find parking in the VMFA deck, in the lot behind St Mark’s Church on Colonial Avenue, or on the street. Remember, for VMFA members, the deck is free.

Children $4 Members Free (Join today) Seniors $5 Adults $6

Location: Virginia Historical Society, Robins Family Forum

Part of the Banner Lecture Series category.

Background Notes: Thomas Jefferson's Enlightenment August 06 2014

Thomas Jefferson’s Enlightenment – Background Notes is a self-contained collection of seventeen essays. Author James Thompson envisioned it originally as a supplement for his earlier book, “Thomas Jefferson’s Enlightenment – Paris 1785.” Readers will find in his detailed “background notes” a feast of little known facts, seldom noted events, and forgotten relationships. As they peer into historical nooks and crannies that only the author seems to know about, they will develop a new insight into the circumspect political loner who drafted the Declaration of Independence alone in his Philadelphia rooms. They will see how “enlightenment’ transformed Thomas Jefferson into the engaged social progressive who later waged and won the Second American Revolution. In this collection of notes, the author discusses the factors that shaped the man who went to France, the people he encountered there, the city he came to know, the circles he entered, the ideas they discussed, and other topics relating to this fascinating period in Jefferson’s life. By examining the motives and objectives that guided him through his day-to-day affairs, Mr. Thompson brings welcome clarity to an image that somehow became murky.
James Thompson studied Philosophy as an undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. As a graduate student, he lived on the farm of Jefferson's eldest daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph. During his four years there, he began what prove to be an ongoing investigation into "the philosophy" of Thomas Jefferson. Mr. Thompson cultivated his interest in the History of Ideas teaching courses in Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics and Western Civilization at Strayer University in Alexandria, Virginia. He has written fives books, including “The Birth of Virginia’s Aristocracy” (2009), “The Dubious Achievement of the First Continental Congress” (2011), and “Thomas Jefferson’s Enlightenment – Paris 1785” (2014). He completed his first book, “Beyond the Veil of Reason - Thomas Jefferson's Early Political Initiatives,” as a Batten Fellow at the Jefferson Center for International Studies at Monticello. Two more books are scheduled for release in the coming year: “The First Revolutions in the Minds of the People” will be released in the fall of 2014. The release date for “George Washington’s Indispensable Man – Who is Will Lee” has not yet been finalized. Mr. Thompson lectures on the topics he discusses in his books. He has spoken at the US Naval Academy and the Virginia Historical Society. He has presented lecture series in continuing education programs at the University of Virginia, the College of William & Mary, George Mason University, and the University of Delaware among others.
Commonwealth Books of Virginia (CBOV) is a small press that publishes about eight book sets per year. Its motto, “Where History, Philosophy, and Art Meet”, underscores the three-dimensional characteristics of the histories it publishes. It uses state-of-the-art technology to transform print histories into colorful families of products, which it sells to users of a wide variety of stationary and portable reading and viewing devices. CBOV advertises its authors and products in a dynamic marketing program that coordinates traditional public relations with a broad range of social media outreach initiatives. CBOV sells its print and e-book editions into nationals through Small Press United of Chicago and its online affiliates. It sells audio, audio-video, and video products through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes, and their global partners.
By James C. Thompson
American History/Biography 
ISBN (Paperback): 978-0-9904018-1-0 / ISBN (Ebook - Kindle): 978-0-9904018-2-7 / 
ISBN (Ebook - EPUB) 978-0-9904018-3-4 / ISBN (Ebook - PDF) 978-0-9904018-4-1 / 
Print: 104 pages $9.95 / Electronic: $5.95 
Release date: October 20, 2014
View book details online at: