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Reviews

An American In Great Britain

George Goodwin’s new book on Benjamin Franklin explores the 18 years Franklin spent in England working as a printer (1726-28) and as an agent representing the Pennsylvania assembly and other American colonies (1757-62, 1766-75).  The author of this excellent book is an Englishman who offers fresh insights into the period from a British perspective.

Benjamin Franklin is most often associated with the city of Philadelphia where he rose to fame, but he was born in Boston in 1706 to a poor family of candle and soap makers.  His father could afford only three years of grammar schooling for young Ben.  At age 12, Benjamin was apprenticed to his brother James, a printer.

After leaving Boston at 17, Franklin established his own printing business in Philadelphia.  Here he published the pithy, witty, and wildly popular Poor Richard’s Almanac (1732-57), invented a number of items (such as the Franklin stove), and experimented with electricity.  An initiator of many civil improvements, he founded a library, a fire company, and a university.  In 1751, he was elected to the Philadelphia assembly, and Thomas Penn, the proprietor of Philadelphia, warily characterized him as a “tribune of the people.”  Poor Richard’s huge success enabled the now wealthy Franklin to retire at the age of 43.

Goodwin describes Franklin’s work with electricity...

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