Thursday, October 24, 2019

Thomas Paine and the French Revolution

From Miranda:
Carinne Lounissi’s study of the ‘French Paine’ is a highly valuable and necessary contribution to the wealth of scholarly work devoted to the self-styled citizen of the world. The author builds on her more theoretical study of Thomas Paine’s writings, published in 2012, to construct a contextualized portrait of the international revolutionary during the years he spent in France as an observer, commentator and agent of the French Revolution between 1787 and 1802. In doing so, she has addressed a subject which was calling out for further investigation. With the notable exception of Alfred O. Aldridge’s Man of Reason: The Life of Thomas Paine, published over sixty years ago, most of Paine’s political writings have been seen through the lens of the British radical movement and his role as a catalyst of the American Revolution. Paine’s contribution to the French Revolution has been given little substantial attention, perhaps in part due to the gaping holes in the archives, which could preclude a less determined scholar from attempting such an endeavour. Lounissi’s study engages actively with the existing body of literature on her subject, drawing upon the findings of Mark Philp, John Keane, Gary Kates and William Doyle among others, while shedding new light on many of the historiographical debates over the role of this controversial figure in French affairs, with the intention of mapping out the “complexity and multifaceted intellectual personality” of her subject and challenging much of the received wisdom (and signalling oversights) on Paine’s time in France (315). The author refutes the traditional categorisation—fueled by the damning verdict of Paine’s contemporary and associate Manon Roland1—of Paine as more of a revolutionary capable of sparking insurrection than a capable governmental theorist, by stating at the outset that there was a “thread of republican thought in his writings that grew and evolved with the various critical moments of the revolutionary era in which he lived and to which he responded in various forms” (3). (Read more.)

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