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Upon publication in 1791-92, the two parts of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man proved to be both wildly popular and extremely controversial. This immediate bestseller not only defended the French revolution, but also challenged hereditary government, advocated democratic principles, and introduced a blueprint for the modern welfare state. As a result, Rights of Man outsold nearly every other book published over the century before Paine himself was sentenced in absentia for seditious libel and forced into permanent exile from his native England. More than 200 years later, this seminal text continues to inspire liberal and progressive movements around the world.
The Routledge Guidebook to Paine’s Rights of Man provides a complete introduction to this foundational text in the history of modern political thought, addressing its historical context, central themes, reception, and influence:
- Emerging populism and the rhetoric of ‘rights’ from the English Civil War to the American and French Revolutions.
- Paine’s arguments against tradition, monarchies, mixed governments, war, state-church establishments
- Paine’s revolution in political discourse
- Critical reception upon publication and influence through the centuries