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03.01.05 Dunn, Susan, Dominion of Memories, Madison & the Decline of Virginia, published in 2007.

Notes Concerning the Author

Susan Dunn serves as the Massachusetts Professor of Humanities at Williams College, where she has taught since 1973. She has also taught at Harvard University in various capacities from 1967-1973, receiving her Ph. D. from Harvard in 1973.  Her A. B. was earned from Williams College in 1966.  Dr. Dunn has written some 11 books, including: Something That Will Change the World: The Essential Writings of the Founding Fathers and Jefferson’s Second Revolution: The Election Crisis of 1800.

Our Review

Dr. Dunn’s book is an attempt to explain the decline of the “Old Dominion”.  She draws from a wide array of first hand southern sources, with a quite impressive Bibliography and comments under “Notes” at the close of the book.  And it is a worthy question — How did the Commonwealth of Virginia, the “premier state” in wealth, population, and national leadership at the beginning of this country, fall into, at least in the author’s opinion, such a “low estate”?

This book is worth the read due to the breadth of its primary sources quoted and discussed, many of which, though from the active political leadership of the Antebellum Period, are rarely referenced.  And, based on those sources, and others available, her base data appears to be valid.  However, her conclusions often smack of prejudice and agenda.  There is much revealing and useful information in this book, but die-hard Southerner may find this book unsettling due to Dunn’s conclusions.  A fuller review of the data with a less jaundiced intellectual eye could easily draw at least a less harsh, judgmental verdict on the loss of the pre-eminence of the Old Dominion.

The book contains an excellent Index at the back, which, with the Bibliography/Notes, make this volume a good reference to the political writings of the period.  Her treatment of Jefferson is more thorough than most authors from the Northeast, more of the man than the myth.  Her Epilogue does briefly mention the post war years, though the basic text ends in 1861.  I enjoyed her book on the Founding Fathers more, though it gave me less new data.

Availability of this Book

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