Notification of Acceptance
Panel Sessions & Keynote Address
September 29, 2016
Panel Sessions & Closing Speaker
September 30, 2016
The annual Baylor Libraries Symposium highlights research and scholarship at Baylor by recognizing the major anniversary of a significant publication. Each year a particular work is chosen based on its cross-disciplinary appeal in the humanities, arts and/or sciences.
The 2016 Annual Baylor Libraries’ Symposium recognizes the 225th anniversary Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man. Published in London in 1791, Rights of Man is a refutation of Edmund Burke’s criticism of the French Revolution, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), which posited that social stability was only attainable if a nation’s impoverished majority was governed by a minority of wealthy social elites. By contrast, Paine argues that since the interests of a ruler and his people are united, the French Revolution should be understood as an attack against the tyranny of the French monarchy rather than against the King himself.
Since human rights are innate and given by nature, Paine asserts, they can neither be granted nor taken away by any political charter. Governments that do not benefit the nation - especially ones based on hereditary inheritance - are considered illegitimate. Paine concludes his treatise by proposing several reforms for the English government, including the establishment of a written Constitution composed by a national assembly, the elimination of aristocratic titles, a progressive income tax, and subsidized education for those living in poverty.
Rights of Man caused such an outrage in England that Paine was tried and convicted for libel against the Crown in absentia. He only escaped punishment by never returning to the country. Though there were more than 300 pamphlets published on the "revolution controversy," Rights of Man is remembered as being the first to inflict serious damage to Burke’s case and to restore public opinion of the French in Britain and America.
This immensely popular work - over 50,000 copies were said to be in circulation only months after its initial publication - provides a wide range of possibilities for academic conversation during this year's Baylor Libraries Symposium.