Richard Boston

In Search of Lost Bones

The Trouble with Tom: The Strange Afterlife and Times of Thomas Paine


Bloomsbury 278pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

It’s not always easy to make head or tail of this book, which is fair enough since it’s the tale of a head – a skull to be precise – and a few other bones. At least that is what is suggested by the title and subtitle of the book, though for much of the time it might just as well be a story about a cock and a bull, or about the hunting of a Snark.

When the skeleton in question was on active service it belonged to Tom Paine, who was born to a Quaker family in Norfolk in 1737 and died in New York in 1809. Between those dates he produced numerous pamphlets and books. In Rights of Man he

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