The most famous manifestos ever written
What are the most famous manifestos ever written? Now, that’s a great conversation to have at the dinner table if you want a robust discussion. But beware, it might also lead to a discussion about the content of these manifestos. For instance, as soon as you mention, The Bible or The Communist Manifesto, this might spark some heated debate religion and politics. To get you started, here’s my list of the ten famous manifestos.
Note, originally, I posted only ten, but due to popular demand in the comments, I’ve added one more to the list.
For context, and to ensure we’re all talking about the same, it might help you to define What is a Manifesto?
Ten Famous Manifestos
[Updated 19 November 2021]
1 The Bible and the Ten Commandments
Perhaps the most famous manifestos of all time is also the most popular book ever written. It was also the first book ever mass-produced. It’s The Bible – a sacred document for the Christian and Judaism faiths. In particular, the Ten Commandments are a crucial element. They define the rules for living of the religion, which translates an ideal into specific actions to take in your daily life. And, in manifesto terms, they create the template for creating your own manifesto. Notably, there are a number of different version of the Ten Commandments depending upon the specific Christian faith you follow.
You could also add the major texts from all religions here. Wikipedia has an extensive list on this page.
2 The US Declaration of Independence
A manifesto that starts a country is a rare and powerful statement. And, that is what the US Declaration of Independence is – a manifesto that gave rise to one of the most powerful countries on the planet. Significantly, at the time it was written, this manifesto was an act of treason. It was proclaiming that the US be formed and separate from British rule. It’s little wonder that a war broke out as a result. Ultimately, a new country was formed. Perhaps the most powerful part of this declaration that can be used in your manifesto is the immortal words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident”. Your manifesto is your statement of what you believe to be true.
3 Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech
Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech is widely regarded as the most famous manifestos and speeches ever given. King delivered his speech to over 250,000 people from the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. It was a pivotal moment in the US Civil Rights campaign and also became a worldwide call for individuals to aspire to fulfil their own dreams. I still get goosebumps every time I hear this!
4 The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Whenever I mention the word ‘manifesto’ the first thing that comes to mind for most people is The Communist Manifesto. Whilst few people know the details of this famous book, the title is widely known. Recognized as one of the most influential political documents ever written. Written by Marx and Engel in 1848, it creates the core ideology of Socialism. Many years later it changed the world through the adoption of the Communist doctrine by Russia and a suite of Eastern European countries. And, ultimately the collision of ideology between Capitalist and Socialist/Communist lead to the post-WW2 Cold War and put the world on the brink of a nuclear war.
5 Apple Ad: Here’s to the Crazy Ones
One of the most famous manifestos in the corporate realm is Apple’s ad campaign Here’s to the Crazy Ones. It was created in 1997 shortly after Steve Jobs returned as CEO. This manifesto is significant because it not only defines the Apple mission for internal staff, it becomes the badge of honour for the faithful followers. Now can now pursue their own genius!
6 Andre Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto
Art lovers may know this one… Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto also gave birth to new art and cultural movement in Europe in the 1920s. Breton and the Surrealists built on the Dada movement and translated Freud’s work into the creative arts. They believed that Freud’s work on dream analysis, free association and the unconscious were crucial to enhancing one’s imagination and ultimately creative expression.
Marinetti’s The Futurist Manifesto is another famous art manifesto.
7 John F Kennedy’s Land a Man on the Moon speech
This is one of the few of our famous manifestos that had a highly specific goal. JFK made one of the most famous declarations in history in his Land a Man on the Moon speech. Partly out of response to the US recession and the drive to control space in the Cold War with the Communist countries, landing on the moon became a major focus for the US for almost a decade. And, when Neil Armstrong put his foot on the moon on 20 July 1969 it became a defining moment in human history and the fulfilment of a famous manifesto.
8 Russell – Einstein Manifesto to question the use of Nuclear Weapons
Of the famous manifestos listed here, this may be the least well known. It was created by philosopher Bertrand Russell and scientist Albert Einstein on the 9th of July 1955. It was the height of the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war was a shadow on the world. Co-signed by a number of leading scientists and thinkers, it lead to a series of conferences and worldwide discussions on nuclear weapons.
9 Chris Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger and Rick Levine’s The Cluetrain Manifesto
Another book in our set of 10 famous manifestos. This one written in 1999 challenged the future of business in an online world. It comprised 99 ideas that challenged existing business thinking. It is still widely referred to today.
10 Peter Fonda and Dennis Hoppers movie, Easy Rider
A movie as a manifesto? Manifestos can have multiple forms. And, this highly popular film from 1969 captured elements of generational change in the US. It highlighted the counterculture elements of drugs, bikies, hippies and communal life. This famous manifesto also sparked a new release of energy for the US film industry.
Bonus: Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto
Due to popular demand in the number of comments and the number of web searches for it, the Unabomber manifesto by Ted Kaczynski deserves to be on this list. Officially called, Industrial Society and the Future, it’s a 35,000-word essay about how industrial technology is destroying nature and forcing humans to act like machines. Kaczynski’s mail-bombing campaign was intended to bring attention to his manifesto and by the interest levels today, I’d say he’s gone some way to achieving that.
More famous manifestos
If you want more examples of famous manifestos to add to your discussion, I’ve collected over 250 examples at 1000manifestos.com
Also, which examples would you add to this list? What are your most famous manifestos?