Thomas Jefferson and Slavery in Virginia

: A Comparative Approach

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Thomas Jefferson is one of the most important figures in American history. A man who served as Secretary of State, Vice President and - between 1801 and 1808 - third President of the United States, Jefferson is best known for authoring the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. Despite proclaiming the right of all men to freedom in the celebrated document, Jefferson owned over 200 slaves for most of his adult life. Moreover, he famously declared black people inferior to whites. For these reasons, he is an increasingly controversial figure amongst historians and the public. Jefferson’s prominence in the early years of the American Republic has led many scholars to claim that his beliefs about slavery and race were representative of general Virginian views during his life. This thesis questions previous historians’ reliance on Jefferson as a gauge for broader perspectives by placing his opinions on the topics of slavery, ownership, race and colonization within the context of Virginian society in the era spanning from 1769 to 1832. To achieve this objective, the research employs an original comparative approach that evaluates the perceptions of other leading Virginian figures from the era - including George Washington and James Madison - as well as those from lower social classes. This method produces a range of conclusions that must change the way we consider both Jefferson and the society in which he operated.
Date of Award7 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester


  • Jefferson
  • slavery
  • Virgina
  • context
  • race ownership
  • colonization

Cite this

Thomas Jefferson and Slavery in Virginia: A Comparative Approach
McBratney, S. (Author). 7 Jun 2019

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis