Radical thinker and political writer Thomas Paine (1737 – 1809) was born in White Hart Street, Thetford, and educated at the Free Grammar School in Bridge Street, before moving to London 1757. He emigrated to America in 1774, where he became famous after writing the all-time best-selling American book, Common Sense(1776), a pamphlet which advocated colonial America’s complete independence from Britain, and helped rally support for this cause. Its impact made him one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
With American Independence gained from Britain, Paine returned to Thetford, where he began writing in support of the French Revolution, publishing The Rights of Man in 1791. He was accused of sedition – incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government, or any action promoting such discontent or rebellion – and left England never to return. His works were banned and his effigy burned in many towns.