Claeys has done a fine job of situating Paine’s famous text in the intellectual and practical context, drawing out the most important themes, and referring the reader to the best secondary literature. . . . An excellent textbook for undergraduate courses in political theory. --James Tully, McGill University
The Rights of Manby Thomas Paine
Rights of Man presents an impassioned defense of the Enlightenment principles of freedom and equality that Thomas Paine believed would soon sweep the world. He boldly claimed, "From a small spark, kindled in America, a flame has arisen, not to be extinguished. Without consuming ... it winds its progress from nation to nation." Though many more/i>… See more details below
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Rights of Man presents an impassioned defense of the Enlightenment principles of freedom and equality that Thomas Paine believed would soon sweep the world. He boldly claimed, "From a small spark, kindled in America, a flame has arisen, not to be extinguished. Without consuming ... it winds its progress from nation to nation." Though many more sophisticated thinkers argued for the same principles and many people died in the attempt to realize them, no one was better able than Paine to articulate them in a way which fired the hopes and dreams of the common man and actually stirred him to revolutionary political action.
About the Author:
A participant in both the American and French Revolutions and in the governments that first arose from them, Thomas Paine is best remembered as the highly popular pamphleteer whose incendiary Common Sense was largely responsible for motivating the American colonists to declare independence. He was born in England on January 29, 1737, and his impoverished early life offered scant evidence of the qualities that would later elevate him to literary and historical prominence. Taking the first available opportunity to improve his lot, he moved to America in 1775, coincidentally arriving at the time when revolutionary fervor was just taking hold.
Meet the Author
Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, England, in 1737, the son of a staymaker. He had little schooling and worked at a number of jobs, including tax collector, a position he lost for agitating for an increase in excisemen’s pay. Persuaded by Benjamin Franklin, he emigrated to America in 1774. In 1776 he began his American Crisis series of thirteen pamphlets, and also published the incalculably influential Common Sense, which established Paine not only as a truly revolutionary thinker, but as the American Revolution’s fiercest political theorist. In 1787 Paine returned to Europe, where he became involved in revolutionary politics. In England his books were burned by the public hangman. Escaping to France, Paine took part in drafting the French constitution and voted against the king’s execution. He was imprisoned for a year and narrowly missed execution himself. In 1802 he returned to America and lived in New York State, poor, ill and largely despised for his extremism and so-called atheism (he was in fact a deist). Thomas Paine died in 1809. His body was exhumed by William Cobbett, and the remains were taken to England for a memorial burial. Unfortunately, the remains were subsequently lost.
Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University. A winner of the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates, Foner is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the British Academy. He has served terms as President of both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians.
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