Webinar: An American in Paris – Thomas Paine in the French Revolution by Dr Adam Lebovitz

Date & timeThursday, 29 April 5:00pm - 6:00pm
CostFree of charge
Booking closing date Thursday, 29 April 12:00pm
Event type Webinar

Image © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Join us on Thursday 29 April for the next in our series of Trinity Hall webinars. We look forward to hearing from Dr Adam Lebovitz, Trinity Hall’s WYNG Research Fellow in Political Theory and Philosophy.

The webinar will take place at 5.00pm (BST) on Thursday 29 April and will last approximately 30 minutes with an opportunity for Q&A at the end. There is no charge to attend however booking is required. The webinar will be hosted live via Zoom.


‘An American in Paris – Thomas Paine in the French Revolution’


Thomas Paine was the most celebrated political writer of America’s founding generation, and remains an object of fascination today in both his native England and his adopted United States. Less well-known is Paine’s long career as a writer and actor in the French revolution, where he sat as a member of the National Convention, and developed close working relationships with many of its leading personalities.

We know that Paine was an opponent of Robespierre, and was imprisoned by the Jacobin government at the height of the Terror. But because Paine left only fragmentary commentaries on French revolutionary politics, scholars have long debated his precise beliefs and positions on the revolution. In today’s talk I will present a new view of Paine’s political activities in France, building on work being done by a rising generation of scholars in America and France.

At the heart of my presentation is a 200 page manuscript that I discovered in the French National Archives in 2017, which I have argued is likely an unknown text by Paine, and one which places his beliefs in a new light. This manuscript, read alongside his other writings from the same period, highlights the vast ideological distance that separated Paine from the Jacobins, and makes clear his deep aversion to political violence, incursions on private property, and other features of sans-culotte democracy.

The talk will draw out the ways in which Paine, the great radical, republican, and revolutionary, was also a kind of conservative. And it will conclude by asking what this tells us about one of the perennial “great questions” of political theory, that is, the differing characters of the American and French revolutions.


Adam Lebovitz is a historian of constitutional thought, and currently the WYNG Research Fellow in Political Theory and Philosophy at Trinity Hall. He holds both a law degree and a PhD from Harvard University. His first book, Reflections on the Terror: Thomas Paine’s Lost Manuscript on the French Revolution, is forthcoming from Harvard University Press.

How to register

Online: Online booking is now open – please click here.

By email: Contact alumni@trinhall.cam.ac.uk with your name and how you are affiliated with the College. If you are an alumnus/alumna of the College, please include your matriculation year.

Please register no later than midday on Thursday 29 April.

You will receive the joining instructions by 2pm (BST) on Thursday 29 April which will include the link to Zoom. If you have not received the link by this date and time, please check your spam box before contacting alumni@trinhall.cam.ac.uk.


If you have any queries, please contact Liz Pentlow on alumni@trinhall.cam.ac.uk.

Donations to the Student Support Fund

There is no charge to attend the webinar however, we would be incredibly grateful if you would consider donating what you may have spent on a drink on a night out to our student support funds. Donations will help students facing unexpected financial challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. No gift is too small as collectively, we can make a huge difference to our students. Thank you.

“When COVID-19 hit, within a week my savings all but disappeared, taking with them my ability to pay for fees, housing and groceries. Had it not been for the Hardship Fund, as well as the considerate, caring and hardworking people at Trinity Hall, I don’t know how I would have made it through these difficult times.” Current PhD student

Why not donate the cost of a drink from the Aula Bar:

£2.00 Cappuccino | £3.80 Trinity Hall Ale | £2.50 Pint of Lager
£3.00 Gin | £6.90 Bottle of wine | £18.20 a round of all the above

Donate now at https://alumni.trinhall.cam.ac.uk/ssnonline