19 February 2019

BOOK: Matthew CROW, Thomas Jefferson, Legal History, and the Art of Recollection (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017). ISBN 9781107161931, £ 34.99

(Source: CUP)

We did not report yet on this book by CUP on Thomas Jefferson’s legal and political thought, published in 2017.


In this innovative book, historian Matthew Crow unpacks the legal and political thought of Thomas Jefferson as a tool for thinking about constitutional transformation, settler colonialism, and race and civic identity in the era of the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson's practices of reading, writing, and collecting legal history grew out of broader histories of early modern empire and political thought. As a result of the peculiar ways in which he theorized and experienced the imperial crisis and revolutionary constitutionalism, Jefferson came to understand a republican constitution as requiring a textual, material culture of law shared by citizens with the cultivated capacity to participate in such a culture. At the center of the story in Thomas Jefferson, Legal History, and the Art of Recollection, Crow concludes, we find legal history as a mode of organizing and governing collective memory, and as a way of instituting a particular form of legal subjectivity.

·         Sheds new light on Jefferson's thinking through original archival research and situates Jefferson's intellectual practice in a variety of contexts such as legal history and colonialism

·         Focuses on a single figure while showing the historical and theoretical relationships between legal, political, and historical thought in the early modern Atlantic world and the founding of the United States

·         Expands our understanding of the history and politics of historical thought by putting Jefferson's use of history in dialogue with the present


Matthew CrowHobart and William Smith Colleges, New York
Matthew Crow is an Assistant Professor of History at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York.


1. Introduction: 'in the course of human events…'
2. Jurisdiction and British legal memory in colonial Virginia
3. New-modeling and rewriting in revolutionary Virginia
4. Labor, language, and the legal subject of the Notes on the State of Virginia
5. Governing the usufruct of the living
6. The discipline of recollection. Conclusion.

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