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In pursuit of Jefferson : traveling through Europe with the most perplexing founding father
2022
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Publishers Weekly Review
Attorney Baxter debuts with an entertaining and informative chronicle of his attempt to recreate Thomas Jefferson's travels in Europe. A lifelong history buff who played Jefferson in an elementary school musical, Baxter explains that the founding father lived in Paris, where he served as America's ambassador to France, from 1784 to 1789 and made excursions to England, the South of France, Amsterdam, and other locales. After coming across an unpublished travel guide written by Jefferson--including a detailed itinerary and eight "objects of attention" to focus on during the journey--Baxter set out to follow in Jefferson's footsteps. Spreading their trips over eight years, Baxter and his family dine at famous Parisian restaurants, go wine tasting in Burgundy, visit English gardens and Dutch museums, and marvel at Rome's architecture. Baxter also interweaves the history of the French Revolution and reflections on contemporary political and social matters, including the "yellow vest" protests against a proposed gas tax in France. Visits to the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery in Nantes, France, and the Monticello estate in Virginia lead to forthright reflections on Jefferson's racism and Baxter's white privilege. Despite a few trite observations ("Jefferson never even set foot in a train"), Baxter manages to bridge the 18th and 21st centuries with skill. This historically informed travelogue delights. (Mar.)
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