Thomas Jefferson’s involvement in both the philosophy and the particulars of the founding of the University of Virginia are explored here. The author admits that just as Jefferson’s views of democracy were tainted by his adherence to slavery, his views of the role of education in a democracy were flawed. Nevertheless, they were similarly crucial to the founding of not just our nation, but subsequent experiments in self-rule. "It falls to very few individuals personally to conceive and craft a leading university from scratch, from lofty ideals down to the last brick and book. The Illimitable Freedom of the Human Mind: Thomas Jefferson’s Idea of a University vividly describes Thomas Jefferson’s obsessional project for a University of Virginia, and also provides a fresh understanding of the American Enlightenment, its soaring strengths and its ugly flaws. Jefferson himself emerges not just as a benign, twinkling-eyed patriarch, but also as a ruthless and effective political operator. Linking the man, the educational content, the state, the nation and the University in a way never before done, O’Shaughnessy has given us an essential text for understanding post-revolutionary America. "—Miles Young. "A great contribution to the literature both on Jefferson and on the University of Virginia. O’Shaughnessy challenges recent scholarship on Jefferson and the history of the university’s founding and explicates Jefferson’s thinking and plans for the university, the commonwealth of Virginia, and the nation. "—Annette Gordon-Reed. "In this well-researched and skillfully crafted history of the University of Virginia, O’Shaughnessy explores the origins of Jefferson’s ideals for the university and gives us a fresh and important way of understanding them. Jefferson, a visionary man of the Enlightenment and lover of books, created the library and chose the curriculum for his university. Jefferson the architect designed and supervised the construction of the physical foundations for his Academical Village. Both of these were crucial to the fulfillment of his life-long commitment to an illimitable freedom of the mind. "—Barbara Oberg. The author, Andrew J. O’Shaughnessy, is vice president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello.
Charlottesville: The University of Virginia Press, 2022. 368 pages with an Index, Notes, and color photos. Hardback in dust jacket.