The Historiographical and Cultural Impact of Thomas Paine: A Quantitative Approach

  • Raymond Irwin


Scholars typically and appropriately focus on the qualities of historical works. The perceived value of books and articles generally turns upon the effectiveness and creativity of theoretical approaches employed, the quality of a work’s research, argument, and writing, and the way in which a piece fits into and advances an area of study. Particularly well-done conceptual frameworks, innovative research designs or new sources, and captivating narratives, of course, distinguish classic historical works from the others.1 In the area of Thomas Paine studies, for example, reviewers have lauded Eric Foner’s study as “a substantial contribution to Paine scholarship”2 and “the best book thus far written on Paine,”3 while others have taken note of John Keane’s “vivid, intensely readable, full-length biography” of Paine4 and Jack Fruchtman’s “new understanding of [Paine’s] writings.”5 As a subject of study, Paine has attracted interest from notable political theorists, historians, cultural commentators, and literary scholars, among them Gregory Claeys, Alfred Owen Aldridge, David Freeman Hawke, Edward Larkin, Edward H. Davidson, William Scheick, Ian Dyck, Christopher Hitchens, Winthrop D. Jordan, Jack P. Greene, and William E. Woodward.


Citation Count French Revolution Paine Study Cultural Impact Bibliographic Record 
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  1. 1.
    Catherine Marshall and Gretchen B. Rossman, Designing Qualitative Research (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2011), 1–15.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Mason I. Lowrance, Jr., review of Tom Paine and Revolutionary America, by Eric Foner, Early American Literature 12 (1977): 91.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Jack P. Greene, “Paine, America, and the ‘Modernization’ of Political Consciousness,” Political Science Quarterly 93 (Spring 1978): 73–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Anthony Arblaster, review of Tom Paine: A Political Life, by John Keane, Political Quarterly 66 (October–December 1995): 356.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    John Berry, review of Thomas Paine: Apostle of Freedom, by Jack Fruchtman, Jr., Library Journal 119 (November 15, 1994): 73.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    For some idea of the scope and problematic nature of defining the digital humanities, see David M. Berry, ed., Understanding Digital Humanities (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) and Claire Warwick, Melissa Terras, and Julianne Nyhan, eds., Digital Humanities in Practice (London: Facet Publishing, 2012).Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    See, example.g., Lokman I. Meho and Kiduk Yang, “Impact of Data Sources on Citation Counts and Rankings of LIS Faculty: Web of Science Versus Scopus and Google Scholar,” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 58 (November 2007): 2105–2125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 11.
    See, e.g., The Trial of Thomas Paine for Certain False, Wicked, Scandalous and Seditious Libels Inserted in the Second Part of the Rights of Man (London, 1793); Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man for the Use and Benefit of All Mankind (London, 1795); and The Works of Thomas Paine (London, 1796).Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Thomas Paine, The American Crisis (London, 1819); Thomas Clio Rickman, The Life of Thomas Paine, Author of Common Sense, Rights of Man, Age of Reason, Letter to the Addressers, &c.&c. (London, 1819); Thomas Paine, Miscellaneous Poems (London, 1819).Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Moncure Daniel Conway, The Life of Thomas Paine (New York: Putnam’s, 1893); Peter Eckler, The Religious and Theological Works of Thomas Paine (New York, 1892).Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Howard Fast, The Selected Work of Tom Paine & Citizen Tom Paine (New York: The Modern Library, 1945); Philip S. Foner, ed., The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine (New York: Citadel Press, 1945); Harry Hayden Clark, ed., Thomas Paine: Representative Selections (New York: American Book Company, 1944); William E. Woodward, Tom Paine: America’s Godfather, 1737–1809 (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1945); Theodore Schroeder, Thomas Paine: A Dynamic Digest of the Life and Work of this Great Humanitarian and Patriot of the American and French Revolutions (Portland, OR: Institute of Human Fellowship, 1945).Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    Significant among these book-length works are Hesketh Pearson, Thomas Paine: Friend of Mankind (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1937); S. M. Berthold, Thomas Paine: America’s First Liberal (Boston, MA: Meador Publishing Company, 1938); Frank Smith, Thomas Paine: Liberator (New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1938); James MacLuckie Connell, Thomas Paine (New York: Longmans, Green, 1939); and Allan Seager, They Worked for a Better World (New York: Macmillan, 1939), a collection of biographies of Paine, Roger Williams, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Edward Bellamy. Notably, two of the works on Paine in the 1930s were published in Hitler’s Germany: Richard Blunck, Thomas Paine: Ein Leben für Amerika (Berlin: Holle, 1936) and Rudolf Böhringer, Die Propaganda Thomas Paines während des amerikanischen Unabhängigkeitskampfes (Berlin: Junker und Dünnhaupt, 1938).Google Scholar
  13. 24.
    Karin Clafford Farley, Thomas Paine: Revolutionary Author (Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1994); Milton Meltzer, Tom Paine: Voice of Revolution (New York: Franklin Watts, 1996); Becky Durost Fish and Bruce Fish, Thomas Paine: Political Writer (Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, 1999); Pat McCarthy, Thomas Paine: Revolutionary Patriot and Writer (Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2001); Brian McCartin, Thomas Paine: Common Sense and Revolutionary Pamphleteering (New York: PowerPlus Books, 2002); Kate Davis, Thomas Paine (San Diego, CA: Blackbirch Press, 2002); Amanda Stephens, A Fire in Their Hearts: May 26, 1775–January 10, 1776 (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 2003); Laura Hamilton Waxman, An Uncommon Revolutionary: A Story about Thomas Paine (Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, 2004); Don McLeese, Thomas Paine (Vero Beach, FL: Rourke Publishing, 2004); Michael Burgan, Thomas Paine: Great Writer of the Revolution (Minneapolis, MN: Compass Point Books, 2005); Mark Wilensky and Totie Richardson, eds., The Elementary Common Sense of Thomas Paine (Arvada, CO: 13 Stars Publishing, 2005); Samuel Etinde Crompton, Thomas Paine and the Fight for Liberty (Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House, 2006); Albert Marrin, Thomas Paine, Crusade for Liberty: How One Man’s Ideas Helped Form a New Nation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014); and Ryan Nagelhout, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense (New York: Gareth Stevens Publishing, 2014).Google Scholar
  14. 25.
    Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (London: Oxford University Press, 1976), 247, 256. As of May 2015, The Age of Reason occurred in the subject headings of bibliographic records in WorldCat a total of 324 times, which represented 10.97 percent of the aggregate subject headings for book-length works on Thomas Paine.Google Scholar
  15. 28.
    For an excellent summary of the history, uses, and limitations of citation analysis, see David A. Pendlebury, White Paper: Using Bibliometrics in Evaluating Research (Philadelphia, PA: Thomson Reuters, 2010).Google Scholar
  16. 29.
    The top five works, all with over 100 Google Scholar Citation Counts, are Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), 286 citations; John Keane, Tom Paine: A Political Life (New York: Grove Great Lives, 1995), 196 citations; Marilyn Butler, Burke, Paine, Godwin, and the Revolution Controversy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 127 citations; Moncure Conway, Life of Thomas Paine (New York: G.P. Putnam and Sons, 1909), 116 citations; and Gregory Claeys, Thomas Paine: Social and Political Thought (London: Routledge, 1989), 106 citations (Google Scholar Counts, April 2015).Google Scholar
  17. 30.
    For a useful discussion on the limitations of Google Scholar, see Péter Jacsó, “Google Scholar: The Pros and the Cons,” Online Information Review 29 (2005): 208–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 31.
    Edward Larkin, “Inventing an American Public: Thomas Paine, the Pennsylvania Magazine, and American Revolutionary Political Discourse,” Early American Literature 33 (December 1998): 250–276; Michael Everton, “The Would-Be-Author and the Real Bookseller: Thomas Paine and Eighteenth-Century Printing Ethics,” Early American Literature 40 (March 2005): 79–110; Scott Slawinski, “Thomas Paine and the Literature of Revolution,” Early American Literature 42 (March 2007): 206–210; Jason D. Solinger, “Thomas Paine’s Continental Mind,” Early American Literature 45 (November 2010): 593–617; Robert A. Ferguson, “Commonalities of Common Sense,” William and Mary Quarterly 57 (July 2000): 465–504; Sophia Rosenfeld, “Tom Paine’s Common Sense and Ours,” William and Mary Quarterly 65 (October 2008): 633–668; Nathan R. Pen-Rosenthal, “Divine Right of Republics: Hebraic Republicanism and the Debate over Kingless Government in Revolutionary America,” William and Mary Quarterly 66 (July 2009): 535–564.Google Scholar
  19. 32.
    Anton J. Nederhof, “Bibliometric Monitoring of Research Performance in the Social Sciences and the Humanities: A Review,” Scientometrics 66 (January 2006): 86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Larry J. Murphy, “Lotka’s Law in the Humanities?” Journal of the Society for Information Science 24 (November/December 1973): 461–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Raymond Irwin 2016

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  • Raymond Irwin

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