Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of Endeavour


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

'Absorbing... fascinating... eloquent' THE TIMES
'Engaging and thoroughly reader-friendly' TELEGRAPH
'Wonderfully absorbing and stimulating' SARAH BAKEWELL

Enlightenment Britain was ablaze with ambition and energy.
Great writers like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Samuel Johnson, John Wilkes and Catharine Macaulay were part of a pioneering generation that shaped and inspired the American Dream. For the first time, bestselling historian Peter Moore vividly traces the transatlantic friendships and revolutionary ideas that inspired the Declaration of Independence.

'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness' is the best-known phrase from that document, which was drafted by Thomas Jefferson in the summer of 1776. Today this line is evoked as a shorthand for that ideal we call the American Dream. But the vision it encapsulates – of a free and happy world – has its roots in Great Britain.

This book tells the story of the years that preceded the Declaration. From the accession of King George III to the astonishing tale of John Wilkes, from the notorious Stamp Act to the Boston Tea Party, it shows how Britain and her American Colonies broke apart. Following a star cast of Enlightenment characters, through their letters, arguments and rivalries, it reveals the rise of a rebellious and daring ideology – one that gave rise to the democratic birth of the United States and the principles we live by to this day.

'Deft insights and in clear prose' ALAN TAYLOR
'A gripping account' STELLA TILLYARD
'Rollicking...compulsive readability' WASHINGTON POST
'A great read' LADY HALE


  • [An] absorbing book... Moore has a keen eye for the sort of eloquent detail that enlivens biography, and he expertly evokes Franklin's transformation from proud artisan to member of a new American elite. He's particularly good on the quirkiness of Franklin's early adulthood . . . Moore [is] a crisp writer and adept at narrative sweep
    Henry Hitchings, The Times

About the author

Peter Moore

Peter Moore is a writer, journalist and lecturer. He teaches creative writing at the University of Oxford. His debut, Damn His Blood, reconstructed a rural murder in 1806. His second, The Weather Experiment, a New York Times 'Notable Book of the Year', traced early efforts to forecast the weather. His latest book, Endeavour, was a multiple book of the year and a Sunday Times bestseller. He presents a history podcast called Travels Through Time.
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