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Response to Review of Thomas Paine and the French Revolution

Paine was a major revolutionary agent who tried to establish connections among the American, English and French public spheres. He is even often said to be the emblematic transatlantic revolutionary whereas both his career and his thinking were exceptions in may respects. Yet, whereas Paine's years in America and in Britain (except for the period before 1774) have been extensively studied in English, such was not the case of his French period until now. I chose to write this monograph in English (without any translator) to start discussions with English-speaking historians both on Paine and on transatlantic history in the era of Revolutions.

A great part of the archival material I used was in French though. The documents I found in the French National Archives needed to be reappraised from a historical viewpoint, including those relating to his stay in the Luxembourg Prison that are used here. Paine's diplomatic network was also significant and confirm his transatlantic dimension. These contacts included American diplomats (Thomas Jefferson, William Short, Gouverneur Morris and James Monroe, to quote only the most well-known ones), as well as French diplomats (La Luzerne in particular, but also Talleyrand). I did not study these diplomatic networks in detail, but they are quoted whenever they may shed light on Paine's writings and activities in France.

This book focuses on his political ideas and on how they evolved and influenced his French contacts. Given the format of the book, I could not explain all the events of the French decade, even if an effort is made to present the main turning points of the French Revolution. The book requires prior knowledge of the historical context of the 18th century. It relies on French, American and British scholarships and is intended not only for students of Paine but also for students of transatlantic revolutions. As a French scholar writing in English for (mostly academic) English-speaking readers, the book may hopefully perpetuate a form of transatlantic republic of letters.