I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of American history is spotty at best – only the bare minimum is covered in Dutch schools – so if you had asked me one year ago who Alexander Hamilton was, I probably would have said something along the lines of: “That name does ring a bell… One of the founding fathers, I think? Maybe. I don’t know.” One little Broadway cast recording later, I found myself diving headfirst into Thomas Paine and picking up the 800-page biography that started it all. The combined popularity of Chernow’s book and the juggernaut of a musical it inspired has brought Alexander Hamilton right back into popular consciousness in a major way, and I have been watching this development with great interest. What happens when a controversial historical figure gets dusted off and put back into the general public’s spotlight two hundred years after his death?
Memes, of course.
Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.
I’ve been reading “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine
So men say that I’m intense or I’m insane
You want a revolution? I want a revelation!
So listen to my declaration:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident
that all men are created equal,”
And when I meet Thomas Jefferson
Imma compel him to include women in the sequel!
Yes, I did pick up this pamphlet because I am obsessed with the musical Hamilton (what can I say, I can relate to men thinking that you’re intense and/or insane), and I am so glad that I did. Common Sense is a remarkable read that holds up incredibly well and is worth reading for anyone interested in history or political philosophy. Who’d have thought that an eighteenth-century political essay would make me laugh out loud multiple times?
Until recently, you would not have been able to find this memoir in your local bookstore – you would have had to resort to either a specialised publisher or Project Gutenberg. It still doesn’t have a cover art picture on Goodreads, that’s how little this book is read these days. However, I have eight magic words for you that kicked it right back into the public eye: “Now The Subject of a Major Motion Picture.” Thank you, Suffragette (2015). Republished under the title Suffragette: My Own Story, this autobiography chronicles the first steps of the British suffrage movement from approximately 1900 until the beginning of the First World War, when the activists decided to temporarily lay down their arms.