“Thomas Paine on the French Revolution: History and Theory”

Fri, Feb 28, 2020, 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Location: 
Kerstetter Room (Marx Hall, Room 301)
Audience: 
Open To Princeton students, fellows & faculty

The occasion is the appearance of new addition to the Paine corpus: "Reflections on the Terror: Thomas Paine’s Lost Manuscript on the French Revolution" (slated for release in Winter/Spring 2020). In the words of the publisher, Harvard University Press:

This book presents a translation and critical edition of a largely unknown text: a commentary on French politics between January and June 1793 by Thomas Paine, the celebrated Anglo-American pamphleteer and revolutionary. Paine lived in Paris for a decade between 1792 and 1802, the full lifespan of the First French Republic. He served in the National Convention, and on the special committee appointed to draft a republican constitution in 1792. And he was imprisoned for nearly a year, from 1793-94, by the Jacobin regime. Despite this centrality, historians have tended to present Paine as disengaged from the events of the revolution, isolated by his poor grasp of French. This manuscript, translated into English and available for the first time in any language, suggests a very different picture of Paine's time in France. Far from disengaged, we find Paine commenting at length on policies pursued by the revolutionary government. And far from the exuberant revolutionary of legend, we find Paine turning a critical eye on French revolutionary measures, rejecting its belligerent policies in Belgium, questioning the wisdom of its redistributive schemes in Paris, and attacking Jacobin extremism as a clear and present danger to the republic. As such, Paine's Paris manuscript is both a valuable record of events during the French revolution, and an indispensable resource for understanding the complexities of eighteenth-century republicanism.

Speakers will include: the editor of the text, Adam Lebovitz (Cambridge), as well as David Bell (Princeton), Robert Darnton (Harvard), Dan Edelstein (Stanford), and Annie Stilz (Princeton).  The manuscript, as well as an article outlining its content, are available to attendees on request.  

Cosponsored with James Madison Program