Gerard V. Bradley, Unviersity of Notre Dame Law School
"In recent decades a number of talented scholars have greatly enriched our understanding of both the political and the legal history of the antebellum South. Most of these scholars, however, have concentrated on either the political or the legal rather than weaving together developments in both realms. Chris Curtis's new book, Jefferson's Freeholders and the Politics of Ownership in the Old Dominion, is the exception to the rule. In this rigorously argued study, Curtis details the manner in which changing conceptions of property and changes in the legal system at once underpinned and reinforced changes in politics and the political order in one key southern state. Curtis's estimable scholarship will compel all students of southern history to rethink the material and moral bases upon which the region was grounded."
Peter A. Coclanis, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
"Christopher Michael Curtis's Jefferson's Freeholders and the Politics of Ownership in the Old Dominion is nothing short of seminal. It will compel the re-study of development of slave society not only in Virginia, but, with appropriate adjustments, for the Old South. Rarely do we find legal, intellectual, and economic history so well integrated and graced by such penetrating insight. The implications of the shif in the nature of property relations illuminate the evolution of the yeomanry as readily as they do that of the planters."
Eugene D. Genovese, co-author with Elizabeth Fox-Genovese of The Mind of the Master Class, Slavery in White and Black, and Fatal Self-Deception
"This book is impressive from various perspectives. Chris Curtis has written an engaging historical treatise on Virginian property relations and law from colonial days to the ante-bellum era. He adroitly demonstrates how local legal history provides a window into law and legal change regionally, nationally and internationally, in the Common Law world. Moreover, by tapping political, economic and social records he has produced a rich narrative of the changing imperatives of political thought and action and economic realities that influenced the development of local law in this slave holding jurisdiction, and explain its inner contradictions. This book merits a broad readership."
John McLaren, University of Victoria
"Christopher Curtis's provocative new book is a welcome addition to the literature on Revolutionary and antebellum Virginia. Focusing on land law, Jefferson's Freeholders charts the Old Dominion's progress from the agrarian commonwealth Jefferson envisioned in 1776 to the slave-based democracy of the 1851 state constitution. White manhood suffrage marked both the triumph of democracy in Virginia and Virginia's emergence as a slave state committed to the peculiar institution's perpetuation. Curtis's smart and original study deserves a wide readership."
Peter S. Onuf, University of Virginia, author of Jefferson's Empire: The Language of American Nationhood
"The great strength of this book derives from its interwoven analysis of statutes, litigation, politics, and political theory."
Turk McCleskey, Virginia Magazine
"Curtis offers an erudite study of the legal basis of property ownership in Virginia between the American Revolution and the 1850s."
The Journal of American History
"In his doggedly intelligent study of the legal culture of possession in late colonial and antebellum Virginia, Christopher Michael Curtis shows that the abundance of scholarship on Thomas Jefferson has a point beyond the hagiographic: Jefferson remains an important point of departure for understanding the early south."
Christopher Tomlins, Journal of Southern History