Image of Thomas Paine looking at an orrory

Thomas Paine, the radical revolutionary of the American War of Independence, is the subject of the Working Class Movement Libraries first post-lockdown exhibition.


The library in Salford, widely acknowledged as one of the UK’s most important collections of historical material on radical working class organisations, is to welcome back visitors with an exhibition on the formidable American revolutionary radical, called Thomas Paine: citizen of the world.

Shut to visitors since March 2020, the Working Class Movement Library (WCML)will open its doors to the public for the exhibition on Friday 6 August, 10:30 to 16:30. Alongside the Paine exhibition visitors will be able to view the ground floor display area, which the WCML staff have been busy revamping during the Covid lockdown.

The exhibitions subject English-born Paine emigrated to America in 1774 and became the editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine. In the first edition the struggle for “American Liberty” was reported on and later editions took an abolitionist stance calling slavery an “outrage against Humanity and Justice.”

Through his strong and vocal stances on human rights and political reform he became a key figure in the American Revolution. His pamphlet Common Sense, which advocated for independence and an egalitarian government for the Thirteen Colonies, became the most widely read pamphlet during the American Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783).

His work reached an international audience and Paine’s The Rights of Man, which defended the French Revolution, so infuriated locals in Didsbury and Deangate, in 1793 that they carried out mock trials and executions, burning effigies of Paine in the process.

Covid-19 protection measures will be in place for visitors to the library, and all visitors will need to book in advance online to attend. The libraries reading room is also open on a limited basis to those who want to come and study the libraries materials, a place can be booked by emailing:

Virtual tour screenshot. Source: WCML virtual tour

For those who can’t make it their in person the WCML have created an impressive virtual tour of the library using 3D scans, this was made possible by the University of Manchester offering the technology and resources to do so, free of charge. Virtual tourers can view videos of poetry from Oliver James Lomax, as they progress through the tour and click on items within the library to get extra information and links to further reading.

Image of Thomas Paine looking at an orrory
Read: Breathing life back into Tom Paine’s bones – graphic novel aims to resurrect neglected political reformer

Thomas Paine was also the subject of a live streamed Invisible Histories talk, via the WCML, which saw Paul Fitzgerald talk about creating his graphic novel on Thomas Paine’s life. The Meteor has previously reported on the production of this graphic novel, and updates as to its progress can followed on the Tom Paine’s Bones Facebook group.

To book a ticket for Thomas Paine: citizen of the world – click here

Working Class Movement Library website – click here

Working Class Movement Library virtual tour – click here

Sign up to The Meteor mailing list – click here.

Featured image: Polyp

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  • Conrad Bower

    Reporting interests include social justice, the environment, and human rights. A staunch advocate for the scientific method and rational debate for understanding the world - he believes only greater public understanding and engagement with the problems affecting society, can produce the progressive change we need. Co-founder of The Meteor.

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