Friday, April 03, 2009

Notes on the State of Virginia: America's First Geographic Epic

Thomas Jefferson is known for many things: the Declaration of Independence, his presidency, his love of science, and other positive and negative traits of his life. Geographers mostly look back and consider Jefferson's role with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. However, Jefferson should also be remembered for creating the first American geographical textbook entitled Notes on the State of Virginia.

Notes was made in reply to a request by French diplomatic officials who wished to have a better understanding of the newly independent United States. In Notes, Jefferson goes into detail describing the physical and human geography of Virgina. There was much to write about because his definition of Virginia included present-day Virginia, the Northwest Territories, and much of everything extending from the Atlantic Coast to the Mississippi River. Everything from rivers to mountains to animals to religion to currency is detailed by Jefferson.

One can buy Notes on the State of Virginia at bookstores or one can go through chapter by chapter online. The University of Virginia features Notes on the State of Virginia for free viewing.

The book reads like a textbook; however, for anyone who is interested in learning about the historical background of early Virginia or is a fan of Jefferson it is worthy a read.

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