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Thomas Paine's Common Sense

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense, which was published in 1776 and bolstered support for American independence.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Thomas Paine and his pamphlet "Common Sense" which was published in Philadelphia in January 1776 and promoted the argument for American independence from Britain. Addressed to The Inhabitants of America, it sold one hundred and fifty thousand copies in the first few months and is said, proportionately, to be the best-selling book in American history. Paine had arrived from England barely a year before. He vigorously attacked monarchy generally and George the Third in particular. He argued the colonies should abandon all hope of resolving their dispute with Britain and declare independence immediately. Many Americans were scandalised. More were inspired and, for Paine's vision of America's independent future, he has been called a Founding Father of the United States.


Kathleen Burk
Professor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary History at University College London

Nicholas Guyatt
University Lecturer in American History at the University of Cambridge


Peter Thompson
Associate Professor of American History at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Cross College

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

46 minutes

Last on

Thu 21 Jan 2016 21:30


Kathleen Burk at University College London

Nicholas Guyatt at the University of Cambridge

Peter Thompson at the University of Oxford

Thomas Paine – Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Who was Thomas Paine? – BBC News Magazine

Thomas Paine: Citizen of the World – BBC History

Thomas Paine - Wikipedia



Seth Cotlar, Tom Paine’s America: The Rise and Fall of Transatlantic Radicalism in the Early Republic (University of Virginia Press, 2011)

Marcus Daniel, Scandal and Civility: Journalism and the Birth of American Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Nicole Eustace, Passion is the Gale: Emotion, Power, and the Coming of the American Revolution (University of North Carolina Press, 2008)

Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (first published 1976; Oxford University Press, 2004)

John Keane, Tom Paine: A Political Life (Bloomsbury, 1995)

Scott Liell, 46 Pages: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, and the Turning Point to Independence (Running Press, 2003)

Gary B. Nash, The Unknown American Revolution; The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America (Jonathan Cape, 2006)

Craig Nelson, Thomas Paine: His Life, His Time and the Birth of Modern Nations (Profile Books, 2007)

Eric Nelson, The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding (Harvard University Press, 2014)

Mark Philp, Thomas Paine (Oxford University Press, 2007)

Peter Thompson, Rum Punch and Revolution: Taverngoing and Public Life in Eighteenth Century Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998)

Gordon S. Wood, Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different (Penguin, 2006)



Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Kathleen Burk
Interviewed Guest Nicholas Guyatt
Interviewed Guest Peter Thompson
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 21 Jan 2016 09:00
  • Thu 21 Jan 2016 21:30

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