A “brief but potent” appreciation of one of the most influential and revolutionary works of political thought “mixing biography, criticism and philosophy” (Los Angeles Times).
Christopher Hitchens, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of God Is Not Great, has been called a Tom Paine for our times. In this addition to the Books that Changed the World Series, Hitchens vividly introduces Paine and his Declaration of the Rights of Man, the world’s foremost defense of democracy.
An outraged response to Edmund Burke’s attack on the French Revolution, Paine’s immortal text is a passionate defense of man’s inalienable rights, and the key to his reputation. Ever since the day of its publication in 1791, Declaration of the Rights of Man has been celebrated, criticized, maligned, suppressed, and co-opted. But in Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, Hitchens marvels at its forethought and revels in its contentiousness.
Famous as a polemicist and provocative commentator, Hitchens himself is a political descendant of the great pamphleteer. Here, he demonstrates how Paine’s book became the philosophical cornerstone of the United States of America, and how “in a time when both rights and reason are under several kinds of open and covert attack, the life and writing of Thomas Paine will always be part of the arsenal on which we shall need to depend.” Enlivened by Hitchens’s extraordinary prose, this “elegant and useful primer . . . ought still to engage us all” (The Guardian).
“Paine, as Hitchens notes in this lucid and fast-moving appreciation, has no proper memorial anywhere; this slender book makes a good start.” —Kirkus Reviews