Starred Review. Kaye offers a masterful and eloquent study of the man he reestablishes as the key figure in the American Revolution and the radical politics that followed it. Focusing on close readings of Paine's major writings, Kaye devotes the first half of the book to Paine's role in the seething fervor for American liberty and independence and his influence on the French Revolution. In Common Sense (1763), which sold 150,000 copies in just a few months, Paine advocated self-government and democracy in the colonies, accused the British of corruption and tyranny, and urged "Americans" to rebel. He championed representative democracy and argued that government should act for the public good. Paine's contributions were not limited to his own time; Kaye traces Paine's influence on American rebels and reformers from William Lloyd Garrison and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Emma Goldman and Eugene Debs in the second half of his book. In 1980, Ronald Reagan quoted him—"We have it in our power to begin the world over again"—in his acceptance speech before the Republican National Convention. As historian Kaye (The American Radical) points out, Paine—"the greatest radical of a radical age"—would have been surprised to learn that conservatives, whose values he opposed, had used his words in their cause. 25 illus. not seen by PW. (Aug.)
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Facing a saturated market for biographies of Thomas Paine, historian Kaye opts to chronicle the effect of his legacy. Reading like a roll call of populists, reformers, and radicals, Kaye's presentation aims to repossess Paine from conservatives who "do not--and truly cannot--embrace him and his arguments." Kaye's audience may measure the assertion against the preliminary passages of this work, which outline Paine's life and paraphrase his revolutionary classics (Common Sense, The American Crisis, and The Age of Reason). Underscoring Paine's championing of exceptionalism, the idea of America's uniqueness in world history (which has conservative roots in Puritanism as well as in the radicalism espoused by Paine and preferred by Kaye), the author recounts Paine revivals that have coincided with reform movements. For a universalistic reach beyond a movement's immediate aims, Paine has been ready-made, and Kaye summarizes how Paine has inspired abolitionists, suffragettes, workingmen, socialists of the Progressive and New Deal eras, and historians. Gilbert Taylor
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This book was written by a man critical of Thomas Paine. I've read other biographies that were more fair to him. But on the other hand, it is an excellent read none-the-less.Published 4 months ago by Christopher Hartly Holte
A fine read about a person way ahead of his time (1700-1800) who had to fight for his beliefs, and was considered a "kook" and very "left of center". Recommended.Published 14 months ago by Arkansas Red
I really enjoyed this book. I never knew how important this man was to the American revolution. Now I know why I didn't know...
He made some powerful enemies. Read more
I have been a Paine supporter for many years. This book filled in some blank pages. It does get a little too detailed as he tries to show how the 19th century treated Paine. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Stephen R Kress
liked the movie and would recommend just wish our internet connection was better so we did not get recalberated so oftenPublished 15 months ago by Sally Sprague
Well written by Prof Kaye, and easy reading. It defines how America departed from the prevailing monarchical regimes of the 18th Century, and created a mass democracy. Read morePublished 15 months ago by John Turnbull
To those discouraged by the gridlock in Washington D.C., the criminal behavior on Wall Street, the collapse of the American Middle class, the increasing gap in wealth between the... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Steve Price