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pamphlet, short unbound or paper-bound book of from 64 to 96 pages. The pamphlet gained popularity as an instrument of religious or political controversy, giving the author and reader full benefit of freedom of the press. Relatively inexpensive to purchaser and publisher, it is less complicated to publish and therefore can be more timely than a hard-cover book. Several examples of this generally ephemeral literary form have proved to have permanent value (e.g., works by John Milton and Thomas Paine), and have been reprinted separately or in collections, such as the Harleian Miscellany (1744–46). See also chapbook.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a publicistic work, the direct aim and motivation of which is concrete, civic-minded exposure of wrongs, primarily sociopolitical ones; usually, a short work. As a publicistic genre, the pamphlet, which F. Engels described as an “epigrammatic work,” is openly tendentious and is designed to influence public opinion directly. Stylistically, it is characterized by pungent aphorisms, rhetorical intonations, vivid epithets, and expressiveness. Irony distilled to sarcasm is an inherent feature of the genre, as is pathos. A deliberately insulting, caricaturing pamphlet is known as a lampoon.

The pamphlet as such emerged during the late Renaissance— specifically, during the Reformation. However, similar works had been written in classical antiquity (for example, Lucian’s The Liar). Pamphlets by Luther, Erasmus of Rotterdam, and T. Murner had wide repercussions. As the political orientation of religious conflicts grew more intense, the pamphlet became saturated with social content. This is evident in many of the pamphlets written during the 17th-century English revolution by Milton, J. Lilburne, and G. Winstanley, as well as in later pamphlets by Defoe and Swift.

During the Enlightenment the pamphlet (particularly as developed by Voltaire) became a powerful political weapon of the Encyclopedists and later of the French revolutionaries (for example, Sieyès’ famous work What Is the Third Estate?). Outstanding among the many pamphlets written during the 19th century are P.-L. Courier’s A Pamphlet About Pamphlets (1824), L. Börne’s Menzel the French-eater (1837), T. Carlyle’s Latter-day Pamphlets (1850), Hugo’s Napoleon the Little (1852), and E. Zola’s I Accuse (1898). The antifascist pamphlets of H. Mann and E. E. Kisch, as well as T. Wolfe’s Radical Chic (1971), are among the most distinguished 20th-century pamphlets.

In Russia the genre was used by A. N. Radishchev (certain chapters of the Journey From St. Petersburg to Moscow, 1790), V. G. Belinskii (Letter to Gogol, 1847), A. I. Herzen, D. I. Pisa-rev, the Narodniki (Populists), and L. N. Tolstoy (I Cannot Be Silent). Pamphlets denouncing the enemies of socialist ideology were written by K. Marx (Herr Vogt), V. I. Lenin (In Memory of Count Geiden), P. Lafargue, A. V. Lunarcharskii, and M. Gorky.

Pamphleteering is characteristic of sharply satirical, revelatory literary works that disclose and emphasize the author’s ideological and political position, directly subordinating the entire imaginal structure of the work to the tasks of parody and exposé. Such works are referred to as pamphlet-novels, pamphlet-plays, and pamphlet-sketches. Features of the pamphlet are encountered in many Utopian novels, beginning with T. More’s Utopia, as well as in antiutopian novels, including Gulliver’s Travels by J. Swift and A. Huxley’s Brave New World. Elements of the pamphletary style are also found in M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin’s Pompadours and Pompadouresses, B. Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, I. G. Ehrenburg’s Trust D. E., V. V. Mayakovsky’s My Discovery of America (literary sketches) and his verses on “Soviet pompadours” (bureaucratic martinets), and S. Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here (1935).


Ozmitel’, E. Sovetskaia satira: Seminarii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.
Burlak, L. Publitsisticheskii roman. Saratov, 1970.
Waugh, A. The Pamphlet Library, vols. 1–4. London, 1897–98.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.