Book Display: The Revolutions in France and the United States

Interested in democracy and politics? You might find our current book display on the ground and first floors interesting. During the enlightenment, and following the American and French Revolutions, the concepts of ‘nation’, ‘natural rights’ and ‘liberty’ developed, and in turn, were debated amongst contemporary philosophers. We’ve picked a selection of books from the displays to share with you.

Common Sense by Thomas Paine (published in 1776) E211.P34


Common Sense, a product of the Enlightenment, inspired the political ideology behind the American Revolution, and sold 500,000 copies in the first year of its release. The pamphlet endorses the introduction of republicanism into 18th century America, and details how it could be practically achieved. Paine offers his own constitutional plan, by stating ‘let the assemblies be annual, with a president only’. Consequently, Common Sense inspired moves towards the American Declaration of Independence (July 1776).

Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (published in 1790) DC150.B86 2006


Reflections on the Revolution in France, is a condemning view on the French Revolution. Burke detested the violence and unlawfulness seen in the French revolution, and warned that mob behaviour was destroying traditional French social and political values. Burke did not agree with Paine’s belief in ‘natural rights’, and instead emphasised the need for continuity and traditional values.

The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine (published in 1791) DC150.P3 1915 


The Rights of Man is split into two parts, with the first used to respond to Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. Paine rejects Burke’s criticisms of the French revolution, and argues the revolution had established a new age where the doctrine of ‘natural rights’ could flourish. Part two of The Rights of Man is a discussion of the principles of government and constitutions, and condemns monarchs and aristocrats.

The French Revolution by Christopher Hibbert DC148.H53.1982 


Described as ‘brilliant’, this book is an account of the events before, during, and after the French Revolution. This is a great introduction to the French Revolution, and is ideal as general overview of the events and characters that shaped the revolution.

The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 by Robert Middlekauf E208.M53.2005 


Described by the New York Times as “one of the best one-volume accounts of the Revolutionary War”, it was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. It’s a comprehensive account of the military history of the revolution, as well as societal shaping forces.


We hope you enjoy our latest book display.


Written by Becky Tabrar and Christina Ross


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