Rights of Man & Common Sense, By Tom Paine

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The Independent Culture

When Obama quoted Tom Paine in his inaugural address, but failed to name him, he captured the strange amalgam of ubiquity and obscurity that marks the Thetford corset-maker's role in political life.

The largely self-taught thinker and activist who helped to craft and shield revolutions in America and France died 200 years ago this month. His great causes triumphed.

Yet this most eloquent of English democrats seldom gets his due. With a stirring essay by Peter Linebaugh, this edition of Paine's peerless defences of revolution - and attacks on patronage and corruption - should be compulsory reading for every MP.