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Publisher's Summary

Thomas Paine was one of the greatest political propagandists in history. The Rights of Man, first published in 1791, is the key to his reputation. Inspired by his outrage at Edmund Burke's attack on the uprising of the French people, Paine's text is a passionate defense of the rights of man. Paine argued against monarchy and outlined the elements of a successful republic, including public education, pensions, and relief of the poor and unemployed, all financed by income tax.

Since its publication, The Rights of Man has been celebrated, criticized, maligned, and suppressed. But here, commentator Christopher Hitchens, Paine's natural heir, marvels at its forethought and revels in its contentiousness. Above all, he shows how Thomas Paine's Rights of Man forms the philosophical cornerstone of the world's most powerful republic: the United States of America.

©2007 Christopher Hitchens (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Lucid and fast-moving....As with all Hitchens, well worth reading." ( Kirkus) "Brilliant portrait....An attractive introduction to Paine's life and work as a whole....Hitchens remains a great writer, and a thinker of depth, range, and vigour." ( Prospect)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Mimi
  • South Lake Tahoe, CA, United States
  • 07-06-09

Exciting July Fourth Listening! Wow!

Somehow I had expected this would be simply Tom Paine's writing, not a whole book about him. History, philosophy and politics are not my strengths, but I've lived long enough and traveled enough that I do care about these things. I found another audio book on the same topics, Founding Brothers, very difficult listening, although I believed it was well narrated. This book by contrast is almost suspenseful. The narrator reads with great understanding, but the book is written so as to be interesting. This author has an exciting mind!

Back in high school I didn't really get it about the deists. And who cared about the Louisiana Purchase? Paine was already trying to solve the problem of slavery, develop a plan for freed slaves. Paine even foresaw a need for a welfare system. Well, goodness! It's a most stimulating book. Educational, exciting, most worthwhile.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Katy
  • United States
  • 03-04-10

Good, but not exactly what I expected.

I picked this up after hearing Thomas Paine's unwavering irreligious convictions referred to by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins in their atheist literature. Unfortunately there was not as much information in this vein as I'd hoped, though the last chapter(s?) did recount his later life when his religious views came into sharper focus. Mostly this was interesting in terms of American/British history, and the history of philosophy about human rights.

As others have noted, it is occasionally difficult to tell where a quotation ends and the main text resumes; but genterally the narration is expemplary with some very nice Scottish brogue thrown in for spice.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 08-08-16

Hitchens on Paine = Near Perfection

“In a time when both rights and reason are under several kinds of open and covert attack, the life and writing of Thomas Paine will always be part of the arsenal on which we shall need to depend.”
― Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Paine's Rights of Man

While there is no imperfect time to read about Thomas Paine or read Christopher Hitchens, 2016 with Brexit and Trump seem to almost BEG for a steroid shot of rationality and intelligence. I read this because I was tired of the news, tired of the discourse, tired of FB debates and arguments that seemed inane and inept (I once saw a debate over some political issue that was carried out entirely using memes). I wondered how we could have dropped from a period where big ideas were discussed by big men (yes, and big women: see Mary Wollstonecraft) to this?

Anyway, about 10 years ago The Atlantic Monthly Press published this book as part of their series Books that Changed the World. Think about this for a minute. Thomas Paine, a largely self-educated son of a corset-maker, wrote a book that would be included on a short list among such books as:

1. Holy Bible: King James Version
2. Machiavelli's The Prince
3. Plato's The Republic
4. Darwin's The Origin of Species
5. The Qur'an
6. Homer's The Iliad/The Odyssey
7. Smith's The Wealth of Nations
8. Clausewitz's On War
9. Marx's Das Kapital

That isn't a lazy peer group. Think about this too. Thomas Paine had his fingers directly in two revolutions (American and French) and was working on a third (England). His words seem almost as natural as the Bible. His concepts are woven into the fabric of our modern sense of freedom, rights, democracy. He is THE prime example that simple words, in the right hands, can change the course of global events. Obviously, the French and American revolutions most certainly would have still happened without Thomas Paine, but the revolutions and the ideas behind them would not have been the same. This guy's words were matches of poetry AND power.

It is amazing, also, to me to think Thomas Paine didn't produce just one revolutionary book/pamphlet, but three (more, but I'll focus on his big three). At different times of my life I have loved, reverenced, and revered Common Sense, The Age of Reason, and Rights of Man as the great Paine book. Each seems destined to continue to be a source of inspiration and direction for those seeking freedom, rights, liberty, and justice. It is hard to imagine my country and the world as it would have been without him. IF that isn't tribute enough, here is final from Bertrand Russell (this appears in the front of the book):

"To all these champions of the oppressed Paine set an example of courage, humanity, and single-mindedness. When public issues were involved, he forgot personal prudence. The world decided, as it usually does in such cases, to punish him for his lack of self-seeking; to this day his fame is less than it would have been if his character had been less generous. Some worldly wisdom is required even to secure praise for the lack of it." - Bertrand Russell, The Fate of Thomas Paine.

18 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • steve
  • kearny, NJ, United States
  • 04-24-10

A True American Hero

Paine was a genius in his own time and his story his truly a remarkable one. His ideas and philosophies were spot on and overall, he's easily my favorite "founding father". With that said, though, this audio book is dull and I had a tough time trying to keep focus to listen to it.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Entertaining and Informative

Would you consider the audio edition of Thomas Paine's Rights of Man to be better than the print version?

If you want the freedom of "reading" (listening) while, say, driving.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Thomas Paine's Rights of Man?

Christopher Hitchen's lucid writing style.

What about Simon Vance’s performance did you like?

He was clearly prepared and made the material audibly digestible.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, and it's rather short so this may be a distinct possibility for many.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Hal
  • Doral, FL, USA
  • 08-09-07

No focus here

This books ends up talking about Edmund Burke more it does about the Thomas Paine. It does not quote from The Rights of Man once.

It only covers Paine's life in the US during the revolution, and during the revolution in France. It cannot be considered a biography because it does not tell of his beginnings—something I would have enjoyed knowing.

Not recommended.

24 of 43 people found this review helpful

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Unimpressive; dry

I was hoping for much more from this audiobook... what, I'm not sure, but it is one of the few books that I have turned off after listening for only 30 minutes. Dry, not the least engaging, and lackluster.

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It's always a delight to read Hitchens

Hitchens is certainly one if not the most acclaimed authors of our century!! His take on Thomas Payne was so good

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Already a fan of Thomas Paine, Tha Age of Reason being the book that led me away from Christianity, Hitchens' work provided more information on who Paine was. I learned quite a few new things about this most crucial character in American and European history. My only wish is that it had been longer as to cover more topics and expound further on subjects mentioned. The narrator's performamce was acceptable, excepting the pausses before quotations which I found monerately aggitating, but that is of little importance. All around, and excellent read.

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Mandatory Reading for all first year College stude

If you could sum up Thomas Paine's Rights of Man in three words, what would they be?

Should be read

What did you like best about this story?

The premise is the story of liberty and the development of democracy in these United States.

Have you listened to any of Simon Vance’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

SImon Vance was good enough.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No entirely possible. Nor should it be.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • James
  • 12-25-12

A fascinating and erudite biography

Christopher's writing is as sublime as ever. Witty and insightful. Only Hitchens could make a potentially dry biography such a "page-turner".

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Stephen
  • 04-29-12

Thomas was a Paine

Wow, this man was central to modern politics and I barely knew him. Christopher presents Thomas in a fair light. Showing his strengths and genius and the demanding road he travelled as very human. He was a great debater and policitcal writer. The best brains in the world could not defeat his arguments. Comparing this man to modern politicans , he was prepared to offer his life for his politics. His influence on world politics was perhaps the greatest in history. We owe him great respect. This is a highlights book, which distills Paines history in a Johhnie Walker Black Label blend. It encourages me to read Paines work and other books on this great man.

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  • Judy Corstjens
  • 08-07-13

History rather than philosophy

I'm interested in the rights of man (and woman) but I really can't get into history. I guess it is interesting that Thomas Paine was the son of a corset maker and at various times in his life also earnt his crust in this profession. Is it? That is my problem with history. I don't like irrelevant facts. It is a little bit interesting to me that Paine was willing to use the bible for persuasive commonalities in his rhetoric and then published a critique of the bible that pretty much argued against its use as a source of evidence in arguments. Sort of mess we all get into, hahaha! I'm trying to say this book is simply not for me, but I feel that this is because of me, not the book. I'd be dead bored by a book on football too, but it might be a good book.

0 of 7 people found this review helpful