‘Tis the Season… of The Age of Reason

Our friend Dr. Sam Edwards of Manchester Metropolitan University gave an excellent popular talk on the Mighty 8th Air Force in East Anglian Memory as part of our 2012 Autumn Lecture Series on American Life and Culture. Now, he is embarking on an exciting new research project (and co-organising an academic conference) illuminating the career of radical thinker and political writer Thomas Paine, who was born in Norfolk!

From the Norfolk’s American Connections blog: Thomas Paine (1737 – 1809) was born in White Hart Street, Thetford, and educated at the Free Grammar School in Bridge Street, before moving to London 1757. He emigrated to America in 1774, where he became famous after writing the all-time best-selling American book, Common Sense (1776), a pamphlet which advocated colonial America’s complete independence from Britain, and helped rally support for this cause.  Its impact made him one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. With American Independence gained from Britain, Paine returned to Thetford, where he began writing in support of the French Revolution, publishing The Rights of Man in 1791. He was accused of sedition – incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government, or any action promoting such discontent or rebellion – and left England never to return. His works were banned and his effigy burned in many towns…

As Dr. Edwards writes,

The bicentennial of the death of Thomas Paine in 2009 saw new attention directed towards Paine’s life and times, but his legacy has still not received the attention it deserves. Vilified by Theodore Roosevelt as a ‘filthy little atheist’, yet adopted by Ronald Reagan in his campaign to make America ‘great again’, Paine’s life and legacy have been both celebrated and dismissed by generations of politicians and presidents. An Englishman by birth, a Frenchman by decree and a citizen of the world, Paine has also been invoked, discussed and appropriated by many others, in many walks of life, across the world.

You can read much, much more about Thomas Paine’s fascinating life and legacy on the Thomas Paine Society’s website, as well as in our Library!

A painting of Thomas Paine

“The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”

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