Benjamin Franklin (Paperback)

Benjamin Franklin By Edmund S. Morgan Cover Image
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A New York Times Book Review Best Book Since 2000
A New York Times Bestseller, a 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, and a Washington Post Book World, Publisher’s Weekly, and Los Angeles Times Book Review Best Book of the Year

“Superb. . . . The best short biography of Franklin ever written.”—Gordon Wood, New York Review of Books
“None rivals Morgan’s study for its grasp of Franklin’s character.”—Joseph J. Ellis, London Review of Books
Benjamin Franklin is perhaps the most remarkable figure in American history: the greatest statesman of his age, he played a pivotal role in the formation of the American republic. He was also a pioneering scientist, a bestselling author, the country’s first postmaster general, a printer, a bon vivant, a diplomat, a ladies’ man, and a moralist—and the most prominent celebrity of the eighteenth century.
Franklin was, however, a man of vast contradictions, as Edmund Morgan demonstrates in this brilliant biography. A reluctant revolutionary, Franklin had desperately wished to preserve the British Empire, and he mourned the break even as he led the fight for American independence. Despite his passion for science, Franklin viewed his groundbreaking experiments as secondary to his civic duties. And although he helped to draft both the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, he had personally hoped that the new American government would take a different shape. Unraveling the enigma of Franklin’s character, Morgan shows that he was the rare individual who consistently placed the public interest before his own desires.
Written by one of our greatest historians and a Pulitzer Prize winner, Benjamin Franklin offers a provocative portrait of America’s most extraordinary patriot.

About the Author

Edmund S. Morgan (1916–2013) was Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University. He wrote more than a dozen books including Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America, which won the Bancroft Prize, and American Slavery, American Freedom, which won the Francis Parkman Prize and the Albert J. Beveridge Award. Cited as “one of America’s most distinguished historians,” Morgan was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2000; in 2006, he received a special Pulitzer Prize “for a creative and deeply influential body of work as an American historian that spans the last half century.”

Praise For…

Selected by New York Times Book Review as a Best Book Since 2000

“Superb. . . . The best short biography of Franklin ever written. . . . [A] concise and beautifully written portrait of an American hero.”—Gordon Wood, New York Review of Books

“In this engaging and readable book, Edmund S. Morgan . . . does more than recount the colorful and gripping story of Franklin’s long, action- and idea-filled life; he also skillfully dissects the man’s personality and mind, his social self and political beliefs, deftly exploring in Benjamin Franklin how the two halves of his being lived together, not always in harmony. . . . Illuminating.”—Susan Dunn, New York Times Book Review

“For an introduction to the mind of Franklin—one of the most inquisitive, productive and engaging minds of his or any other day—readers can’t do better than this incisive volume.”—H. W. Brands, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“The distinguished historian Edmund S. Morgan . . . distill[s] the singularly eventful life of . . . Franklin . . . [to] give the great man, in every important sense, his due. . . . Morgan carefully documents and elucidates with scarcely a wasted word.”—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

“So much has been written about Benjamin Franklin in the 212 years since his death that you might imagine there’s nothing left to say. But there always is. Now comes another biography of the man, a fairly short one, and in my opinion it’s one of the best.”—Max Hall, Boston Globe

“Morgan . . . has produced a book that crowns his career. While several previous biographies provide fuller accounts of Franklin’s life, none rivals Morgan’s study for its grasp of Franklin’s character, its affinity not just for his ideas, but for the way his mind worked.”—Joseph J. Ellis, London Review of Books

“Writing with exemplary lucidity, Morgan emphasises Franklin’s omnivorous curiosity and devotion to public usefulness, showing how they connect his activities as printer, journalist, postmaster, soldier, scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, politician, diplomat and author.”—The Guardian

“A model biography: pithy, wise, and—despite its brevity—complete. Franklin emerges as a quintessential hero of his time, and ours.”—Newsweek, “Fifty Books That Make Sense of Our Times”

“This year publishers are flooding bookstores with works lamenting how U.S. political and business leaders of the 1990s lost sight of the ideals on which the United States was founded. One new book, however, rises above the wistfulness and recreates that original vision. [This book] breathes new life into core American values.”—Los Angeles Times

“Amid the mountains of material written by and about Benjamin Franklin . . . this small and lovingly produced book stands out for its clarity and economy. . . . Such a considered but almost entirely admiring account of Benjamin Franklin is refreshingly revisionist.”—Andrew Rosenheim, Times Literary Supplement

“Excellent. . . . Sublime. . . . [An] illuminating portrait of a quintessential, and perennially contemporary, American spirit.”—Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

“Short, loving.”—Adam Gopnik, New Yorker

“Edmund Morgan paints a fascinating portrait of a true titan, a hugely energetic figure whose life influenced countless other lives and touched every part of his century.”—Paula Adamick, Canada Post

“Morgan’s style is fluent and conversational without being slick or glib. He writes with enthusiasm and with the discipline of someone who commands far more detail and context than he has allowed himself space to impart. The result is a pleasant and informative book.”—George Fetherling, Vancouver Sun

“For those who want an entertaining, witty, succinct, and well-rounded account that captures Franklin’s essential character, look no further than Morgan. . . . Morgan’s biography is a book well worth reading.”—Mark G. Spencer, Canadian Review of Books

“A concise, excellent, and eminently readable biography. . . . Morgan has written a book very much like its hero: so fluent, so engaging, and so self-effacing that one only gradually realizes its true breadth and scope. . . . In conveying to modern readers the natural geniality of Franklin’s character, Morgan succeeds also in casting new light on the social atmosphere and political ideas of the emerging American nation.”—Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs

“A luminous biography.”—Louis P. Masur, Chicago Tribune Book Review

“This wonderful biography of an extraordinary man results from a perfect marriage of subject and scholar. . . . It’s hard to imagine a better life study of a man we’ve all heard about but who is barely known.”—Publishers Weekly

“Morgan . . . packs a lot of meat into this relatively short biography. . . . But you will be hard pressed to find a better introduction to a great man.”—Dolores and Roger Flaherty, Chicago Sun-Times

“An elegant intellectual biography of a man who made a tremendous mark on America.”—Polly Paddock, Charlotte Observer

“A spellbinding account. . . . We come away from this superb book admiring Franklin in a new, more profound way.”—Thomas Fleming, New York Sun

“Morgan’s broad humanism, gentle wit, and continuing curiosity all mirror those of his subject. As with Benjamin Franklin, we are unlikely to see his like again.”—Marc Arkin, New Criterion

“An essential work for anyone with an interest in Franklin, the American Revolution, or the art of biography.”—Choice

“Morgan’s account is based almost exclusively on its subject’s massive collection of writings, but Franklin was diversified enough to satisfy most readers. An excellent portrayal of a patriot’s style and substance.”—Kirkus Reviews

Edmund S. Morgan was honored with a special Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for his “creative and deeply influential body of work as an American historian that spans the last half century”

Selected by Choice Magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2003

Named one of the best books of 2002 by Los Angeles Times Book Review

Named a Best Book of 2002 by Salt Lake City Tribune

Chosen as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review

“A wise and brilliant study.”—Robert Middlekauff, University of California, Berkeley

Product Details
ISBN: 9780300101621
ISBN-10: 0300101627
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: August 11th, 2003
Pages: 352
Language: English
Series: Yale Nota Bene S