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Tom Paine: A Political Life


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First published in 1995 to outstanding critical acclaim, which hailed this book as the most definitive biography of Tom Paine. Reissued to coincide with the 200th anniversary of his death. Tom Paine is still very much in the public consciousness, and was quoted by Barack Obama in his inauguration speech Winner of the Fraunces Tavern Book Award Between August and October 2009 Shakespeare's Globe will be showing a play about Tom Paine, entitled A New World: The Life of Thomas Paine Updated with a new foreword by the author

About the Author

Born in Australia, John Keane is Professor of Politics at the University of Westminster and the WZB (Berlin) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Founder of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, a consultant to the United Nations and a recent member of the American-based Institutions of Democracy Commission, his books include Global Civil Society? (2004), Vaclav Havel: A Political Tragedy in Six Acts (1999) and The Life and Death of Democracy.


We are doubly blessed. On the heels of Jack Fruchtman Jr.'s solid Thomas Paine: Apostle of Freedom (LJ 11/15/94) comes this richly detailed, more disciplined labor of scholarship and love, an exemplar of the rewards of a gargantuan effort at historical research. As Keane corrects all prior Paine biographers, Keane's bibliographic notes prove how thoroughly he has scoured every scrap of Paine scholarship from the beginning to now. It all enriches the already overloaded life of democracy's greatest propagandist with intriguing contextual detail that ranges from the simple conditions of life to data on the readership of Paine's writings. Keane warns against biographies that "tell us more about the biographer," but his "techniques of modest writing" commit few such excesses and make for entertaining edification. In short, buy it; it's definitive.-John Berry, "Library Journal"

'It is hard to imagine this magnificent biography ever being superceded... It is a stylish, splendidly erudite work ... The only book so far to do full justice to this near-nigh mythical figure' Terry Eagleton, Guardian 'A superb biography of an extraordinary man in extraordinary times' Daily Telegraph 'Not only a book of the year but a book of the decade - should finally consolidate Thomas Paine's reputation' Michael Foot, Evening Standard 'The most impressive and well-documented account ever written of this extraordinary man' Observer

English-born radical journalist Thomas Paine, who in 1774 immigrated to America, where his pamphlets helped spark the Revolution, was a world citizen who preached the abolition of despotic regimes. A staunch opponent of slavery, Paine (1737-1809) also spoke of Native Americans as his ``brothers.'' This flesh-and-blood portrait charts a life pulsating with drama, surprises and narrow escapes, while also situating Paine's intellectual development in the context of his time. Keane, a professor of politics in London, gives us a generous, farsighted foe of hypocrisy and injustice who could also be conceited and dogmatic. In Paris, serving as a member of the National Convention, Paine was imprisoned (1793-94) and nearly guillotined during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror. Upon his inglorious return to the U.S. in 1802, he was vilified as an atheist and monster. Paine slipped into depression, poverty and obscurity, but this gripping biography restores his luster and contemporary relevance. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)

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