Thomas Paine’s Common Sense inspired American colonists toward revolution, but what did the British think of his words?
This digital critical edition of Common Sense explores a re-printing of Thomas Paine’s iconic pamphlet produced by printer J. Almon in London in 1776. Unlike American editions, Almon censored portions of the text in this British version by simply leaving blank spaces in the typesetting where the objectionable words had been. Historians have spent much time studying the impact of Common Sense on the American consciousness in the days leading up to revolution. However, the thoughts and reactions of British readers have received less attention. This text offers insights into what readers across the pond thought of this provocative tract.
How to use this edition
This collection features images of the British pamphlet’s pages alongside a transcription of the text. Redactions and annotations are highlighted in yellow. Hover your cursor over the redactions to view the words the London publisher left out. Click on the highlighted portions to open annotations suggesting why the printer omitted this text, or to learn more about Common Sense itself.
Create your own account on the annotation site hypothes.is to store your own notes as you read!
Educators: Hypothesis is an excellent tool to facilitate critical analysis and discussion of the text. Invite students to a group to share and review commentary as a class. Only members of the group can view these annotations, highlights, and notes. Follow this link to access teachers' guides and tutorials on how to use hypothesis as an educational tool.
This site is currently under development. In addition to annotations, interpretive essays will provide more in-depth context for a particular aspect of Common Sense and its readership.
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by Marie Pellissier
The first British edition of Common Sense has over twenty changes to the text, including redactions and additions. Why did J. Almon, the British printer, make these changes, and what did he remove?