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UVa & Coursera offering a MOOC: A free inquiry into the nature of TJ's universe

Launching on UVa's President's Day, Feb. 17, 2014, the massive open online course (MOOC) entitled “Age of Jefferson,” covering the life and legacy of the University's Founder, will be taught by Peter Onuf, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor Emeritus, and senior fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello.

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale: (1805)
Library of Congress
The University of Virginia, Charlottesville

An expert on Jefferson and on the early American republic, Prof Onuf is one of the three “history guys” who host the public radio show, “BackStory with the American History Guys" that airs weekly as a production of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities:

“The American Revolution marked a critical and formative epoch in the emergence of the modern world. Studying Jefferson, his hopes and fears, his achievements and his failures, enables us to understand our world better.

Thinking about – and with – Jefferson enables us to gain a fresh perspective on our world, a world that Jefferson did so much to shape.”

The six-week, noncredit course, “Age of Jefferson” is open to the public worldwide and is free of charge. It is available at the website for Coursera and at iTunes U. and a preview of the course is available here.

Taking a cue from what Jefferson thought to be of greatest value, having directed them to be etched in stone on the monument erected to his life's work, the course focus on a number of ideas and general themes that engaged his will throughout the 62 years of his adult life.

Among Jefferson's Papers at the Library of Congress is an undated memorandum relating to the inscription on the obelisk for his epitaph – "because by these, as testimonials that I have lived, I wish most to be remembered."

Here was buried
Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
Father of the University of Virginia

The course will also be exploring Jefferson's parodoxical relationship with the institution of slavery.

The University's vice provost for global affairs, Jeffrey W. Legro explains:

“The ideas that Jefferson struggled with – the equality of people, human freedom, church and state, the best means of higher education and the need for political change – are ideas that people near and far continue to struggle with today. Jefferson is one of America’s original global thinkers; in this course Onuf brings him, and the magic of the University of Virginia and Monticello, to inquiring minds around the world.”

Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello explains further:

“As Jefferson said, ‘This little ball of liberty is now so well in motion,’ and he hoped that it would continue to roll around the globe. This new MOOC is a unique opportunity to engage audiences in a global dialogue about Jefferson’s actions and principles in his time, and their continued influence to the present day.”

Peter Onuf has written or edited numerous books, including “The Mind of Thomas Jefferson.” Teaching has been one of the themes of his own life's work and he has supervised or advised more than 100 doctoral dissertations. In 2012, the American Historical Association recognized Onuf’s remarkable teaching abilities with the Nancy Lyman Roelker Mentorship Award.

He is presently collaborating with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annette Gordon-Reed on a book about Jefferson’s intellectual life, entitled “The Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination.”

“The central purpose of the University of Virginia, founded in 1819, is to enrich the mind by stimulating and sustaining a spirit of free inquiry directed to understanding the nature of the universe and the role of mankind in it.

Activities designed to quicken, discipline and enlarge the intellectual and creative capacities, as well as the aesthetic and ethical awareness, of the members of the University and to record, preserve and disseminate the results of intellectual discovery and creative endeavor serve this purpose. In fulfilling it, the University places the highest priority on achieving eminence as a center of higher learning."

For more information about "The Age of Jefferson," see the website for the MOOC course at Coursera, or the MOOC course at iTunes.

Also of interest to fans of Jefferson and Monticello, the White House announced that in order to mark the historic partnership between France and the United States, President Obama invited President Hollande of France to tour Monticello in February, as part of his historic State Visit.

Thomas Jefferson served as the first Secretary of State -- from March 22, 1790, to December 31, 1793 Years earlier he had served as.Minister Plenipententiary to Paris, having joined John Adams and Benjamin Franklin to negotiate commercial treaties with European partners. He succeeded Franklin in that position, from 1784-1789. He and his older daughter Martha (or Patsy) and James Hemings left from Boston on July 5, 1784. Following the death of Jefferson's youngest daughter, Lucy Elizabeth, in October of that year, Martha's younger sister Maria, (or Polly) was eventually sent for and then escorted overseas by James Hemings' sister Sally. They all then departed from Le Havre to return to America on September 28, 1789.

The White House issued the following statement on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014:

Since the time of our founding fathers, the United States and France have been allies and friends. As the residence of Thomas Jefferson, one of the United States’ earliest envoys to France, Monticello reflects Jefferson’s affection for the people of France, the long-standing relations between our two democracies, and the shared values we hold dear: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. President Obama looks forward to sharing this piece of our shared history with President Hollande.

Incorporated in 1923, The Thomas Jefferson Foundation "seeks to engage a global audience in a dialogue with Jefferson’s ideas." Recognized as a National Historic Landmark, as well as a United Nations World Heritage Site, Monticello welcomes about 450,000 guests each year:

The Foundation operates as a private, nonprofit organization, and receives no support from either federal or state funds in fulfilling its mission to preserve the heritage of Jefferson's legacy:

"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them.

And it requires no very high degree of education to convince them of this. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty"

Thomas Jefferson, to James Madison, Paris, December 20, 1787.

For information, visit The University of Virginia, or”

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