We live in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in times like those which Thomas Paine described as trying men’s souls.1 Our world is one of perpetual emergency, pointless wars, invasions justified by deceptions and accompanied by imprisonment without trial and torture. The literature is large and growing. Paine was writing during the American Revolution, a period in which all political categories, law, the subject of politics and empire were undergoing the changes outlined in the preface, and the resistances to them. The categories of political, including imperial, practice, subjectivity and law were interwoven. And, to continue the spinning metaphor, important sub-threads will become apparent. The British Empire, as Paine was writing, had already entered what many historians have seen as its second, and more authoritarian phase. One inquires, historically, in a kind of dialectic. We find our object inevitably from a perspective, with particular motivations. Yet if we are narrativists of an open, but disciplinary kind rather than writers of myths and legends, the object of inquiry assumes not simply its own integrity, as well as a lesson for ourselves. In Paine’s world we find much of relevance to our own, if we are looking for it.