UK TV Broadcast on August 9, 2014: Melvyn Bragg Starts the Thinking Revolution on Television

Melvyn Bragg's Radical Lives: Rights of Man – Thomas Paine

Broadcast on BBC TWO Television on Saturday, August 9, 2014: 21:15.

Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
Melvyn Bragg tells the remarkable story of Thomas Paine (1736 - 1809), the 18th-century English radical writer who wrote three of the best-selling political essays of all time: Common Sense (1776), Rights of Man (1791), and The Age of Reason (1794).

Thomas Paine's Rights Of Man and The Age of Reason charged British radical thinking throughout the 18th century, and were a key intellectual influence on the American Revolution, which brought independence from Britain. Paine lit the fuse for the American Revolution, was an active participant in the French Revolution, and laid the foundation for political reform in Britain. His influence - both literary and political - has continued long after his death.

For this broadcast, Melvyn Bragg travels from Norfolk to Philadelphia, and New York to Paris, as he follows in the footsteps of one of the great champions of democracy and human rights. Along the way, he explains how the freedoms we all enjoy grew out of 18th- century Enlightenment thinking, and were given popular voice in the works of Thomas Paine.

At last people in their millions are going to find out just how badly they are being deceived by their leaders and teachers - that there is no such thing as Christians, Muslims, and the Jewish religion.

People have been killing each other over nothing! Only supernatural religious absurdities invented by men in the dark age of ignorance. Men who knew nothing about the cosmos, and thought that a red hot ball of fire went round a flat Earth every day.

In the 21st-century, any conclusions that these ancient priests came to have to be scrutinised very carefully indeed, and never blindly believed. Thomas Paine’s exciting scientific age of reason has arrived. No wonder he was wanted dead or alive in England for daring to tell the truth in a country where even today the Church and the state are still established.

Article about Melvyn Bragg's Radical Lives: Rights of Man – Thomas Paine:

Melvyn Bragg: 'Thomas Paine was a great Englishman' (August 9, 2014, The Telegraph)
(…) His first book, Common Sense, written in 1775, was taken by the American leaders of what became their Revolution – especially George Washington – as a summons that it was their duty to throw off the colonial yoke.

His next publication, The Rights of Man (1791), had, like Common Sense, startling success, and also attacked the English constitution. It sold more copies than the Bible and it turned the British government against him.

In his third book, The Age of Reason he dismantled the Bible stories with a ferocity of reason which again infused the imagination of an immense audience.


He was far ahead of his time. “When it shall be said in any country in the world, my poor are happy… my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want; the taxes are not oppressive… then may that country boast its constitution and its government.”

But yet again he attacked those who had elevated him. He objected to all capital punishment including the execution of the King and Queen of France. The French threw him out of Parliament and into prison, where he just escaped the guillotine.


He died in America in 1809, having been given a small pension by a few of his friends. Even fewer turned up – six – at his funeral.

From the Comments:
"An illiterate mechanic, when mistaking some disturbance of his nerves for a miraculous call proceeds alone to convert a tribe of savages, whose language he can have no natural means of acquiring, may have been misled by impulses very different from those of high self opinion ; but the illiterate perpetrator of " the Age of Reason," must have had his very conscience stupefied by the habitual intoxication of presumptuous arrogance, , and his common sense over-clouded by the vapours of his head"

Coleridge on Paine and his ilk.
Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg, Baron Bragg, FRS, FBA, FRSA, FRSL, FRTS is an English Writer and broadcaster. He is best known for his work with ITV as editor and presenter of the The South Bank Show (1978–2010). In 1998 Melvyn Bragg was appointed to the House of Lords as a Labour life peer: Lord Bragg of Wigton. In June 2013 he wrote and presented the BBC documentary The Most Dangerous Man in Tudor England. This told the dramatic story of William Tyndale's mission to translate the Bible from Latin to English. He is currently Chancellor of the University of Leeds.

Christians deserve respect, says Melvyn Bragg (Daily Telegraph, July 13, 2013)