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Paperback Thomas Paine's Rights of Man: A Biography Book

ISBN: 0802143830

ISBN13: 9780802143839

Thomas Paine's Rights of Man: A Biography

(Part of the Books That Shook the World Series and Books That Changed the World Series)

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Book Overview

Christopher Hitchens, the #1 New York Times best-selling author of God Is Not Great has been called a Tom Paine for our times, and in this addition to the Books that Changed the World Series, he vividly introduces Paine and his Declaration of the Rights of Man , the world's foremost defense of democracy. Inspired by his outrage at Edmund Burke's attack on the French Revolution, Paine's text is a passionate defense of man's inalienable rights, and...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Christopher Hitchens: "a Tom Paine for our troubled times."

Christopher Hitchens is something of an Oxford-educated, free-thinking Renaissance Man: author, journalist, literary critic, columnist, polemicist, intellectual, former Trotskyist, and (as of 2007), an American citizen. Although he admires George Orwell, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, James Joyce, Richard Dawkins, and Barack Obama, he is sharply critical of Mother Teresa, Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Jerry Falwell, and Michael Moore. As demonstrated in his best-selling book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Hitchens is an ardent believer in the Enlightenment values of secularism, humanism, and reason. "Above all," he writes in God Is Not Great, "we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment, which will base itself on the proposition that the proper study of mankind is man, and woman . . . And all this and more is, for the first time in our history, within the reach if not the grasp of everyone" (p. 283). Hitchens has been recognized as one of the world's "Top 100 Public Intellectuals" and "a Tom Paine for our troubled times" (The Independent, London). In his entertaining 2006 essay, Thomas Paine (Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man": A Biography), Hitchens examines the history of "The Rights of Man" and analyzes its contemporary significance. Thomas Paine (1737-1809), much like Hitchens, was a pamphleteer, radical, and intellectual revolutionary. Best known for his pamphlet Common Sense (1776), which inspired the American Revolution, he also wrote his passionate guide to human rights, Rights of Man (1791), in response to Edmund Burke's attack upon popular government in Reflections on the Revolution in France. Hitchens' basic premise is that Paine's treatise on the Enlightenment values of human rights and reason was the philosophical foundation of the United States, and that it is now essential that we revisit Paine's "paean to human liberty" in a time when both our rights and reason are under attack: "In a time when both rights and reason are under several kinds of open and covert attack," Hitchens writes, "the life and writing of Thomas Paine will always be part of the arsenal on which we shall need to depend." Highly recommended. G. Merritt

Perfect companion to Paines "Rights of Man" Read it first if you can.

Thinking of how this book was bought to provide insight and detail for my reading of Thomas Paine's Collected works, I must admit the first few pages only sent me into Paine at an even more furious pace. I should be reviewing this book before the collected works but as it ended up I only just finished it months after reading much of Paine's works. Save the Rights of Man until you read this, I found what I was looking for and more in the manner that only Hitchen's can express it.Great notes on why and towards whom the Rights of man is directed and how it remains relevant today. Will greatly enhance your reading experience even if it could easily have been twice as long.Hitchen's is a master who understands Paine and brings to light things the casual reader may miss. Remember read it first because if you have never REALLY read Paine once you start you will not be able to put him down.

Clear and concise view of Paine

Hitchens is best known now for the "God" book, but those who find him disagreeable on that count shouldn't necessarily pass up this gem if they are interested in America's revolutionary beginnings. Thomas Paine was probably the primary rabble-rouser for the American Revolutionary War. He was an unlikely pamphleteer, having just come to the colonies from an undistinguished life in England. In Common Sense he lambasted the idea of royal privilege (let alone rule) and proclaimed The Law Is King! That statement alone shows his relevance for today, as debate over the proper extent of executive power rages. Paine got a raw deal from history, probably because he was a deist and explicitly rejected (in The Age of Reason) formal religion of any kind. The best reason to read this book is if you want to understand Paine's role in the American Revolution without picking up a textbook-size tome. You also get a quickly drawn but insightful portrait of the man generally.

Hitchens seldom disappoints

...and he doesn't here. Aside from the erudition which always seems to flow from ol' Chris's pen, his subject in this instance is something of an 18th-century soul mate. Maybe this little examination of humanist Paine will go some ways toward raising the general awareness of the man and of his works-- long overdue, like some bit of acknowledgement in D.C.

Flaming Edmund Burke

This pint size book provides some interesting commentary on the writings of Thomas Paine. Although it is also a mini biography, it is foremost a tale of the verbal battle between Paine and Edmund Burke who wrote a criticism of the French revolution entitled "Reflections on the Revolution in France." Paine always spoke his mind. His fiery remarks helped spark the American revolution, and later, in France, he so freely vented his opinions on what the French should be doing that he was thrown into prison, and narrowly escaped execution. Paine was vastly irritated by Burke (who deplored the French revolution), and was prompted to do a 19th century version of flaming. Thomas Paine wasn't the only one irked by Englishman Burke. Jefferson wrote about him to a friend of his discussing the "rottenness of his (Burke's) mind." How else should a new American feel about Burke's glorification of the aristocracy and scruffy put-down of the rights of citizens. It is both informative, and entertaining to read about this famous debate between Burke and Paine. I feel obliged to add John Barrell wrote a very negative review of this book in the London Review of Books. He accuses Hitchens of historical inaccuracy and even plagiarism. Nevertheless I enjoyed the book. It is quite accessible to the average reader, and I highly recommend it. Finally I can't help but remark on what seems to be an ego trip on Hitchen's part. On the front and back cover of the book is a picture of a man. Thomas Paine's picture? No, Christopher Hitchen's picture. Again, on the front cover, we find Mr. Hitchen's name in significantly larger type than the name of Thomas Paine. I guess when you have a book on the best seller list (God Is Not Great) you get a little puffed up.
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