Thomas Paine and Common Sense

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Thomas Paine and Common Sense

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gen. 13, 2007, 10:51 pm

I just finished reading 46 Pages about Thomas Paine and Common Sense. With all the books I've read and shows I've watched on The History Channel, I never realized how important Common Sense was to the American Revolution. I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in the Revolution. It's an easy read, insightful (at least in my opinion), and includes the full text of Common Sense as well.

gen. 14, 2007, 4:14 pm

I'm not sure where I read it but I think Common Sense had the highest sales outside of the Bible during that time. If you're interested in some of the ideals behind the Revolution I really enjoyed Countryman's "The American Revolution". Its a short quick read but its got lots of good information.

Editat: gen. 18, 2007, 1:14 pm

I like Tom Paine, so I thought I'd see if I could find any more info on 46 Pages. There don't seem to be any academic reviews out, but there is a surprisingly negative blurb from Publishers Weekly:

Calling Common Sense "the single most influential political work in American history," Liell, a member of the Thomas Paine National Historical Association, asks how, in a mere 46 pages, Paine persuaded American colonists that the only solution to their quarrels with Britain was independence. Liell introduces the anonymous pamphleteer, Paine, a former civil servant who witnessed the crown's abuses and, as a disaffected Englishman, knew how to speak to the colonists. While they had asserted their rights as British subjects, Liell explains, Paine called upon them to claim the natural, God-given rights of all men. Significantly, he also gave Americans both an identifiable enemy in the person of George III and a higher purpose-not merely national independence but the cause of liberty itself. Charting the pamphlet's spread throughout the colonies, from prominent statesmen to common citizens, Liell cites astounding sales and quotes contemporaries on its popularity. If the book's first two parts, a minibiography of Paine and the exegesis of Common Sense, sound like lectures, this third part, with its stacked quotations and tiresome repetition, reads like a term paper. In the epilogue, Liell simply summarizes Paine's subsequent career as a political writer. This colorless book hardly seems just recognition for one of liberty's most dedicated spokesmen and his revolutionary pamphlet. (May) Forecast: This is a selection of the History Book Club, Military Book Club and Reader's Book Club. A 50,000 first printing and blurbs from David McCullough and Joseph J. Ellis should spark sales.

I think I would still turn to Eric Foner's classic Tom Paine and Revolutionary America, republished in a 2nd edition in 2005. One could also simply read more Paine. The Library of America's Collected Writings is a very good collection.

Feel free to tell me why Publishers Weekly was wrong about 46 Pages.

gen. 18, 2007, 6:17 pm

Honestly this was my first exposure to Thomas Paine so it's all I know. I enjoyed the book as it was all new to me and I felt an easy read. I didn't feel like the book lectured to me, and while I do agree there was some repetition, the book did peak my interest. Publishers Weekly may indeed be right, but unless they are willing to offer a better read, I'd still recommend 46 pages to someone who is not familiar with Common Sense and wants to understand what it was. Like me they may then have an interest in learning more. I'll check out your recommendations, thanks.

gen. 22, 2007, 12:02 am

As a librarian in training I've found that PW is sometimes hit or miss with their reviews. Usually its a miss. Even if it is some back cover quote getting McCullough and Ellis is no small feat. Considering publishers sent out hundreds of these books to all different kinds of people means that some will like them and some won't. But if you get an endorsement from McCullough and Ellis you've probably done you're homework.

Also the PW article is unsigned so I'm sure its some professor who couldn't get something published and is ticked. Sadly that's how it works in the history biz sometime.

gen. 22, 2007, 1:10 pm

For the record, this review as posted on EBSCO is credited, "By Sarah F. Gold, EDITOR; Emily Chernoweth, ASSOCIATE EDITOR and Jeff Zaleski, FORECASTS EDITOR"

I don't know why this is not repeated on PW's own page.

gen. 25, 2007, 8:28 am

It cuts down on 33.33333% of angry e-mails? (33% for online, print and electronic subscription)