March 23, 2019
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Author talk by Peter Onuf on ‘Why Our History Matters: The American Revolutionary Perspective’

Community Author: Ruth Mapleton
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Ruth Mapleton | BDN
Ruth Mapleton | BDN

WINTER HARBOR — Winter Harbor resident, Peter Onuf, professor emeritus of the University of Virginia, historian, author, and scholar-in-residence at the American Antiquarian Society, will speak on “Why Our History Matters: The American Revolutionary Perspective” at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22, at Winter Harbor Public Library, 18 Chapel Lane.

Onuf is a Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor Emeritus in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia and Senior Research Fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies (Monticello) and Mellon Distinguished Scholar in Residence, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts, (2017-18).

A specialist in the history of the early American republic, Onuf was educated at Johns Hopkins University, where he received his A.B. in 1967 and Ph.D. in 1973, and has taught at Columbia University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Southern Methodist University before coming to Virginia in 1990. In 2008-2009 Onuf was Harmsworth Professor of American History at the University of Oxford. In 2014, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Onuf’s work on Thomas Jefferson’s political thought, culminating in Jefferson’s Empire: The Language of American Nationhood (University Press of Virginia, 2000) and The Mind of Thomas Jefferson (2007, also Virginia), grows out of earlier studies on the history of American federalism, foreign policy, and political economy. He and co-author Annette Gordon-Reed recently published Most Blessed of Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination (Liveright, 2016); his Jefferson and the Virginians: Democracy, Constitutions, and Empire is forthcoming (this fall, from Louisiana State University Press). With Ed Ayers and Brian Balogh, Onuf was founding co-host of the public radio program “Backstory with the American History Guys” (

Onuf’s current research project on the origins of the American Antiquarian Society, founded in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1812, is titled “Antiquarian America: Isaiah Thomas and the New Nation’s Future.” Son-of-Liberty, printer, publisher and bookseller Thomas founded the AAS in 1812 to serve as a repository for collecting anything and everything that might be relevant to the unfolding history of the United States. Thomas and his colleagues believed that a comprehensive, democratic history of the American people was essential to the survival and ultimate success of the new nation’s bold and unprecedented experiment in republican self-government. The antiquarian promise has yet to be fully realized. The time may have come, in our era of polarization, demoralization, and “fake news” for taking a fresh look at how revolutionary Americans thought about the history they were making.

Onuf and his wife Kristin  live in Portland and Winter Harbor, Maine.

Admission to the talk is free. For more information, contact the library at 963-7556, or email