Where’s Jefferson?

Published:May 3, 2011 by Brendan Wolfe

You’re an encyclopedia of Virginia history, people often say to us. So where’s your entry on Thomas Jefferson?

The short answer is: It’s coming! It’s coming! And maybe once it’s here, we’ll get Jack Jouett to ride around Virginia warning everybody. In the meantime, though, it’s worth explaining what takes so gosh-darn long.

As I’ve written before, we generate the content for our site in the context of sections. Section editors—academics, generally—collaborate with us in creating a trove of entries that reflect not just the obvious points of departure (Lee and Jackson in the Civil War, for instance) but the important but less-well-known topics, as well (the Civil War also involved religion and revivals, battlefield preservation and controversial legislation). Over time, we immerse ourselves in a particular era, and through our editing, individual entries start playing off one another, referencing similar ideas or elaborating on certain events only briefly mentioned elsewhere. They begin to fit together, in other words, into something that feels intellectually coherent.

This is why we work in sections. The downside to that, of course, is that certain big entries are held hostage until their section comes up. We haven’t done Thomas Jefferson because we haven’t yet done the American Revolution and Early Republic section, but it will come soon. First, we’re busy with colonial history and precolonial history.

Oh, and I know …

You’re an encyclopedia of Virginia history, and you have a section on colonial history. So where’s your entry on John Smith?

It’s coming! It’s coming!

IMAGE: Thomas Jefferson by Anna Rose Soevik (mixed media on canvas, for the Library of Congress)