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on 23 February 2009
Hitchen's writes in his usual loquacious and elegant way on a topic he claims to be of his utmost interest. The book is an easy read, well structured but somehow lacking in the depth that we can observe in his other works. In his attempt to avoid a partisan or bias view point Hitchen's leaves his opinions behind and expresses very little of that verve we have grown use to. The book is too short.
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on 2 June 2015
Who better than the acerbic Christopher Hitchens to write this account? Memories of his heated debates, his frequently coming across as over-opinionated and arrogant, but often right, bring life to a subject in a way that few others could achieve. This short book has a formidable cast of characters, notably names such as Burke, Franklin, Jefferson, Lafayette, Napoleon, Robespierre, Washington, and Wordsworth. As a prime example, Paine’s position is made clearer by comparing it with Burke. An inspiring read.
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on 24 October 2006
Everyone who loves freedom will adore this book.

Buy it. You don't need to read further. Buy it, you'll love it. But, if you're a masochist willing to submit yourself to my views, read on. Then buy it.

This is Hitchens at his best; a chronic kicker who thinks he's clever and would dearly love to be the Tom Paine of today. He's writing about a genuine soulmate; both men are champions of the chaos of change and the beauty of unrestrained libertarianism. Hitchens understands Paine, because he's a carbon copy of his hero -- tenth carbon, perhaps, but nonetheless a genuine copycat. This is Hitchens at his best.

It's delightful because it makes you think. It doesn't matter if Hitchens is right or wrong. What matters is that every reader will finish this book with a greater and profound understanding of the freedom that was bursting out in the 1750-1848 era. It's my view that revolution is 90 percent fluff and fury; Paine was the 'Dallas cheerleader' in charge of fluff for the American Revolution, with the added bonus of a doctoral dissertation on freedom in 'Common Sense'.

Hitchens astutely quotes Madame Roland who described Paine as ". . . better at lighting the way for revolution than drafting a constitution . . . or the day-to-day work of a legislator". True enough. But, take away Paine, and the Revolution would have lost its most enthusiastic and articulate voice. The eventual US government was invented by Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Madison and the like; but, without Paine they might never have had the opportunity to invent a new government.

Paine and Hitchens can be grievously wrong, such as attacking hereditary institutions. By their standards, the plebian roots of Hitler and Stalin would make them two of the greatest men of the past century. By the same standard, Roosevelt and Churchill, both leaders with rich hereditary backgrounds, would be two of the worst.

So? Those issues are nitpicking trivialities. Paine is justly one of the major figures of the American Revolution because of 'Common Sense'. This was no flash-in-the-pan of inspired genius; Hitchens eloquently outlines the scope of Paine's reasoning and ideals in 'The Rights of Man' which is the central theme of this book. It takes a soulmate to fully understand Paine, and Hitchens is that man. He's a shadow of Paine's intellect; but, better to be a shadow than a spotlight that misses its mark.

If you read no other Hitchens, read this one book. If you read everything else of Hitchens, this book will surprise you for its intelligence. No writer (or reviewer) can be irrelevant all the time. This book is relevance at its best, first-rate reading in a time of an "imperial presidency" which leaves the wildest fantasies of King George III as amusing pecadillos.

Buy it. You didn't need to read this far. Buy it, you'll love it. If you're intelligent, you'll thumb through it again and again, underlining, noting, highlighting, thinking. If you're not intelligent, you'll think Hitchens is brilliant. Whatever. Buy it.

(Hopefully, someone is at work on an equivalent cogent concise analysis of 'Reflections on the Revolution in France' by Edmund Burke.)
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on 23 December 2013
This is the first time I've read any of Hitchen's books but I'm already looking for more.
Radical, lucid in his arguments, pacy and succinct; what a writer!
Hitchens demonstrates the enormous debt owed to Tom Paine by America in particular - a debt still acknowledged in muted tones at best in that country.
This is an absolutely 'must read' book for anyone having even a remote interest in politics.
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on 16 October 2015
Typical Hitch, plenty of assuming the reader has solid knowledge of peripheral matters, eg the French revolution, Jacobins etc. That of course is part of the appeal in a way, you go along for the have to try and keep up.
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on 10 July 2015
Am halfway through - it gets better in the middle - at least for me. Raises some of the most relevant & serious issues concerning all societies - of humans. Need to finish it to give a thorough review. Ask me in a few weeks time, I need to re read it, its a dense and demanding subject, & has prompted me to read books by both Paine & Burke ....& Christopher.
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on 20 July 2010
Hitchens turns a great phrase. He throws himself into his subject and you get the impression that that could be anything. Whatever's on his mind will find it's way into Vanity Fair one day, into Newsweek the next, and nearly everything he says will be broadcast on YouTube within a day or two. He is a fascinating writer and polemicist and - you sense even more so than Jefferson or even Orwell - Thomas Paine appears to be his great inspiration. An Englishman crosses the pond in search of revolution and enlightenment. Makes friends, makes enemies. Witnesses great things. Writes about them. Always takes a side. But in light of Hitchens' changes of opinion - or at least perspective - over the last decade or so, you sense he longs for the days of Paine, when a man could change his mind and so change his side. The wonderful illustration of Paine's relationship with Burke gives the reader a sense not only of the development of western ideologies in the early modern era, but of what it's like to be Christopher Htchens. When friends become enemies this is what it's like - and your enemies define you as much as your friends. Hitchens is not a post-structuralist. He does not believe authors to be dead. For him, Thomas Paine is alive and so this biography breathes and pulses throughout its 140-or-so pages. Definately worth a shot!
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on 31 January 2007
hitchens has taken the vast majority of his info from john keane's biography, and he has done it with many errors.

most infuriatingly he doesn't include any discussion on the impact both parts of Rights of Man had in the UK, perhaps in targetting an american audience he has left out the reaction of the country the book was written for.

the introduction to my penguin copy of rights of man proves to be far more informative and well researched.

the only upside of this book, if its a quality you seek, is that it is a light read.
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on 20 April 2013
This small book offers great insight to the author of the Rights of Man and he cultural environment of the times
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VINE VOICEon 12 May 2010
Short tribute to Thomas Paine who was an atheist who did a lot of good for mankind concerning equality and human rights.He contributed to human progress regarding political freedom for the individual and a better world. A lot of the rights we now take for granted are due to the wonderful thinking (outside the box,lol) of this amazing man.He was against slavery of the body or mind.
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