Join us Wednesday, February 22nd, from 4-5 p.m. ET for a hybrid Fellow’s Forum with Christopher Bates, Ph.D. Student, University of Edinburgh.

Attend in person: Berkeley Conference Room, the Jefferson Library 

Join via ZOOM »

About the Presentation

The first English authored biography of Thomas Jefferson observed that for the first thirty-three years of his life Thomas Jefferson was a British subject and ‘Britain has at least a share in him.’ The aim of this project is to measure that British/English aspect of Jefferson, pre and post revolution. For all of the Francophilia accusations levelled against Jefferson by Federalist opponents it was England and Britain that more extensively defined Jefferson’s world, from his upbringing in colonial Virginia to his retirement years at Monticello. Jefferson was Janus-faced, and arguably sphinx-like, regarding his British connections, affections, and conflicts. But it was an entanglement that no declaration could untie. Jefferson could look admiringly at Britain whilst at the same time critiquing and resenting that enduring influence on him politically, culturally and personally. His self-independence from Britain and self-identification as ‘American’ was multi-layered, varying between the personal and private and the political and public spheres that Jefferson used to order his life. Any view of a fully de-Anglicised Jefferson by 1783 or 1789 is untenable, demanding a more nuanced understanding of his multi-layered, and often conflicted relationship with Britain, England and Englishness. That relationship was not Manichean. It was complicated. It was certainly significant and defining. Therefore, Chris’s argument can be summarised as ‘No Anglicisation, no Jefferson.’

About Christopher Bates

Christopher Bates is a second-year doctoral student in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, supervised by Professor Frank Cogliano. His research explores the significance and endurance of Jefferson’s Englishness in person, politics, law, property, and is provisionally titled ‘The Anglicisation and De-Anglicisation of Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826.’ For the first thirty-three years of his life Jefferson was a British subject which counted for something. Chris’s project is aimed at measuring that Anglicised ‘something’. He was previously a Teacher Fellow at the ICJS in 2009, and a Peter Nicolaisen International Fellow in 2017, writing a play about the Jefferson and Hemings families. Prior to beginning his PhD at Edinburgh, Chris had a long career as a teacher of American history and politics, and deputy head at Kimbolton School in Cambridgeshire, England. His BA and MA are from the University of London in a time long ago.