In Pursuit of Jefferson: Traveling through Europe with the Most Perplexing Founding Father

Time Period
1764 to 1824
1925 to Today
Media Type
Domestic Life
Politics & Government
Sports & Leisure
Derek Baxter

On August 25th, 2022 writer Derek Baxter held a lecture about his book, In Pursuit of Jefferson: Traveling through Europe with the Most Perplexing Founding Father.

In 1788, when two young countrymen asked Thomas Jefferson for advice on where to go on their own journey, he wrote them a 5,000-word letter he entitled Hints to Americans Travelling in Europe, instructing them where to go, what to do, and how to bring knowledge from their travels back to newborn America. More than two hundred years later, Baxter used the miniguide to embark on a grand tour of his own, following Jefferson’s advice through six countries and absorbing countless lessons while recovering from his own personal crisis. Yet along the way, what Baxter learns isn’t always what Jefferson had in mind—including how Jefferson could never escape the fact that the work of enslaved people lay behind all his travels and projects. In Pursuit of Jefferson is at once a personal story of a life-changing trip across Europe and a profound personal journey as well as an unflinching look at one of America’s most controversial founding fathers. Written with immersive historical detail, a sense of humor, and a boundless heart, Baxter explores how we can be better at moving forward only by first looking back.

Derek Baxter graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in history and is an attorney. After years of research, he made nine separate trips abroad on Jefferson’s trail. In Pursuit of Jefferson is his first book. You can follow his adventures with Thomas Jefferson at

The content and opinions expressed in these presentations are solely those of the speaker and not necessarily of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.

Want to listen to an audio-only version of this lecture? Listen now on Soundcloud.