Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Peter Moore


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Vintage Publishing
29 June 2023
ISBN: 9781784743192
512 pages

From the publisher

Bestselling historian Peter Moore traces how Enlightenment ideas were exported from Britain and put into practice in America - where they became the most successful export of all time, the American Dream

'A trove of gripping...characters. Wonderfully absorbing and stimulating' SARAH BAKEWELL, author of AT THE EXISTENTIALIST CAFE

'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness' is the best-known phrase from the Declaration of Independence, one of the most important documents of the eighteenth century and the whole Enlightenment Age. Written by Thomas Jefferson, it is frequently evoked today as a shorthand for that idea we call the 'American Dream'. But this is a line with a surprising history. Rather than being uniquely American, the vision it encapsulates - of a free and happy world - owes a great deal to British thinkers too.

Centred on the life of Benjamin Franklin, featuring figures like the cultural giant Samuel Johnson, the ground-breaking historian Catharine Macaulay, the firebrand politician John Wilkes and revolutionary activist Thomas Paine, this book looks at the generation that preceded the Declaration in 1776. It takes us back to a vital moment in the foundation of the West, a time full of intent, confidence and ideas. It tells a whole new story about the birth of the United States of America - and some of the key principles by which we live to this very day.