Ben’s Book Club: ‘Tacky’s Revolt’ by Vincent Brown

Wednesday February 17th 2021, 5pm GMT/12pm ET. Register here.

Join us for the February instalment of Ben’s Book Club, a monthly virtual gathering looking at themes relating to Benjamin Franklin, the 18th century, and American history.

This month we will be talking to Vincent Brown about his book ‘Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War’, a gripping account of the largest slave revolt in the eighteenth-century British Atlantic world, an uprising that laid bare the interconnectedness of Europe, Africa, and America, shook the foundations of empire, and reshaped ideas of race and popular belonging.

In the second half of the eighteenth century, as European imperial conflicts extended the domain of capitalist agriculture, warring African factions fed their captives to the transatlantic slave trade while masters struggled continuously to keep their restive slaves under the yoke. In this contentious atmosphere, a movement of enslaved West Africans in Jamaica (then called Coromantees) organized to throw off that yoke by violence. Their uprising—which became known as Tacky’s Revolt—featured a style of fighting increasingly familiar today: scattered militias opposing great powers, with fighters hard to distinguish from noncombatants. It was also part of a more extended borderless conflict that spread from Africa to the Americas and across the island. Even after it was put down, the insurgency rumbled throughout the British Empire at a time when slavery seemed the dependable bedrock of its dominion. That certitude would never be the same, nor would the views of black lives, which came to inspire both more fear and more sympathy than before.

Vincent Brown is Charles Warren Professor of American History and Professor of African and African American Studies.  He directs the History Design Studio and teaches courses in Atlantic history, African diaspora studies, and the history of slavery in the Americas. Brown is also the author of The Reaper’s Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery (Harvard University Press, 2008), producer of Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness, an audiovisual documentary broadcast on the PBS series Independent Lens.

You can purchase a hardcopy of ‘Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War’ here. You can purchase the Kindle edition here.

Join us even if you don’t have a chance to read the book by the event date!

This event is free of charge but please consider making an online donation here to support the work of Benjamin Franklin House.

Ben’s Book Club: ‘The Fortunes of Francis Barber’ by Michael Bundock

Wednesday January 20th 2021, 5pm GMT/12pm ET. Register here.

Join us for the January instalment of Ben’s Book Club, a monthly virtual gathering looking at themes relating to Benjamin Franklin, the 18th century, and American history.

This month we will be talking to Michael Bundock about his compelling narrative, ‘The Fortunes of Francis Barber: The story of the Jamaican slave who became Samuel Johnson’s heir’, which chronicles a young boy’s journey from the horrors of Jamaican slavery to the heart of London’s literary world, and reveals the unlikely friendship that changed his life.

Francis Barber, born in Jamaica, was brought to London by his owner in 1750 and became a servant in the household of the renowned Dr. Samuel Johnson. Although Barber left London for a time and served in the British navy during the Seven Years’ War, he later returned to Johnson’s employ. A fascinating reversal took place in the relationship between the two men as Johnson’s health declined and the older man came to rely more and more upon his now educated and devoted companion. When Johnson died he left the bulk of his estate to Barber, a generous (and at the time scandalous) legacy, and a testament to the depth of their friendship. There were thousands of black Britons in the eighteenth century, but few accounts of their lives exist. In uncovering Francis Barber’s story, this book not only provides insights into his life and Samuel Johnson’s but also opens a window onto London when slaves had yet to win their freedom.

Michael Bundock is a barrister, a trustee of Dr Johnson’s House and Chair of the Johnson Society of London. He is an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of English Language and Literature at UCL.

You can purchase a copy of ‘The Fortunes of Francis Barber’ from the online shop at Dr Johnson’s House here. Click here to find out more about this Grade I listed historic town house which was Samuel Johnson’s home. You can support the charity which preserves the house and runs its vibrant education and events programme here.

You can also purchase the Kindle edition of ‘The Fortunes of Francis Barber’ here.

Join us even if you don’t have a chance to read the book by the event date!

This event is free of charge but please consider making an online donation here to support the work of Benjamin Franklin House.

Virtual Children’s Christmas Fair: Leighton House Museum

Hannah Lund, Assistant Curator at Leighton House Museum will show us how to make paper cranes using origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, to bring us good luck for the coming year.

Although Frederic, Lord Leighton never visited Japan, he was fascinated by the art and culture of this country. He collected lots of beautiful Japanese artworks and objects, like the exquisite golden screen decorated with cranes that he kept in his studio. In Japanese folklore, cranes are said to live for 1,000 years and so are a symbol of a long life, and are thought to bring good luck.

To complete the activity, all you will need are squares of paper – these could be origami paper squares, squares you cut yourself or even sweetie wrappers!

Watch the video below:

Virtual Children’s Christmas Fair: Arts and Crafts Hammersmith

Arts and Crafts Hammersmith (a collaboration between Emery Walker’s House and the William Morris Society) will show you how to make angel peg dolls based on William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones angel illustrations, tapestries and embroideries.

To complete the activity, you will need: a wooden peg, a sheet of kitchen roll, a glue stick, a pair of scissors, felt tip pens, biro pen or pencil, a helpful adult, printed worksheet

You can download the worksheet here and watch the video below:


Thanksgiving Quiz

Tuesday, November 24 2020, 6pm GMT/1pm EST

Join us for a fun virtual America-themed quiz for Thanksgiving!  Enter as an individual or a team. Winners will receive exclusive Benjamin Franklin House treats.  All proceeds will go toward advancing our mission to bring history and innovation to life at the only surviving Franklin home.

£5 entry – Buy your tickets here 


Ben’s Book Club: ‘Christmas Traditions’ by George Goodwin

Wednesday December 9th 2020, 5pm BST/12pm EDT. Register here.

Join us for the December instalment of Ben’s Book Club, a monthly virtual gathering looking at themes relating to Benjamin Franklin, the 18th century, and American history.

This month we will be taking a festive break by talking to George Goodwin, our Author in Residence, about his book Christmas Traditions, an entertaining and enlightening guide to the sacred and secular traditions of Christmas, with many of the latter being 19th-century Anglo-American creations that owe much to Washington Irving and Charles Dickens.

When first experienced in childhood, Christmas seems all of a piece and to have a wondrously timeless quality, as its different aspects blend snugly together. With a collection of charming facts, quotations and anecdotes, George considers the history of the season’s most important festive elements. Beautifully illustrated with images from the British Library’s own vast collections, Christmas Traditions rekindles the memories that are an essential part of the magical nature of Christmastime.

George Goodwin is Honorary Author in Residence at Benjamin Franklin House in London, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Makin Fellow at the British Library’s Eccles Centre for American Studies, who sponsor his Christmas talks. As well as being the author of Christmas Traditions (2019), George has written three highly-acclaimed historical studies which include Benjamin Franklin in London: The British Life of America’s Founding Father.

Christmas Traditions is published by the British Library and most of its illustrations come from the BL’s own magnificent collections. It is available here and here and through all good bookshops.

Join us even if you don’t have a chance to read the book by the event date!

This event is free of charge but please consider making an online donation here to support the work of Benjamin Franklin House.

US Presidential Debate 2020

US Presidential Debate with representatives from Republicans Overseas and Democrats Abroad and moderator, veteran pollster, Sir Robert Worcester   

In association with the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library



Please note this is a past event. View upcoming events and all past virtual talks here. 

Just weeks away, the contentious 2020 US presidential election between incumbent Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden is set against deeply divided ideological lines and a global pandemic.  Veteran pollster, Sir Robert Worcester, will ask Greg Swenson, representing Republicans Overseas and Bill Barnard, representing Democrats Abroad why each believes their candidate is best placed to lead the United States over the next four years.

Sir Robert Worcester is the founder of opinion research firm, MORI. He spearheaded the 800th Anniversary Commemoration of the Magna Carta and is a governor of the Ditchley Foundation. He is Chairman of the Emeritus Governors and Honorary Fellow, LSE; Visiting Professor and Fellow, King’s College London; Honorary Professor, Warwick and Kent (former Chancellor); Adjunct Professor, University of Kansas; Deputy Chairman, Magna Carta Trust; Vice President, former Chairman, Pilgrim Society; Vice President, International Social Science Council/UNESCO, United Nations Association, European Atlantic Group; Governor, English-Speaking Union; past Member, Fulbright.

Greg Swenson is a member of Republicans Overseas and a founding partner of Brigg Macadam Ltd, an emerging market investment banking firm in London. He has over twenty years of banking, alternative investments, and global markets experience.  He spent his first eleven years in the industry at Lehman Brothers, holding several positions in the fixed income area from 1992 to 2003. Greg holds an undergraduate degree from Boston College and MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management of Northwestern University and is a frequent business and political commentator on BBC, CNBC, CNN, Fox News and other media platforms.

Bill Barnard is university professor and author of Dixiecrats and Democrats. Former Chair of Democrats Abroad UK, and former international Treasurer of Democrats Abroad, the official arm of the Democratic Party of the United States. He attended five Democratic conventions (two as a member of his state delegation and three as a political analyst and commentator for state-wide public television) and two Republican conventions as an analyst and commentator.  Bill says he was a Democrat by inheritance, passing out flyers for Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and “a Democrat by persuasion by 1960,” campaigning for John F. Kennedy in the deep south at the age of 18.

Washington, Franklin, and the British

Please note this is a past event. View upcoming events and all past virtual talks here. 

Monday November 9th, 5pm BST/12pm EDT

George Goodwin discusses his latest research on George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and the intelligence networks that shaped the War for Independence.

George Goodwin is Author in Residence at the Benjamin Franklin House in London. He is the author of Benjamin Franklin in London: The British Life of America’s Founding Father (Yale University Press) and contributor of the Benjamin Franklin entry in The Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington.

He is the recipient of two separate international research fellowships at the Robert H. Smith Center for Jefferson Studies, Monticello. This research project will provide a core element of his forthcoming book, Benjamin Franklin’s War: London, Paris and America’s Fight for Independence. Goodwin is an Eccles Centre Makin Fellow at the British Library, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and of the Royal Society of Arts. He is a graduate of Cambridge University.

Franklin’s Young Inventors Science Club: Balanced Diet

Saturday 6 March, 11.30am GMT. Register here for this 30-minute virtual class.

Franklin’s Young Inventors is our weekly science club for aspiring scientists in Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14). We are delivering our science club virtually via Zoom on Tuesdays at 4.30pm GMT or Saturdays at 11.30am GMT. Participants will learn all about the experiments carried out by Benjamin Franklin and his British friends as well as trying their hand at practical investigations. This week we’ll be exploring the core biology topic of maintaining a balanced diet.

If you would like to create your own eat well plate or balanced meal dairy, you can download the templates here. If you would like to recreate the investigation into the effects of different foods on our teeth, you will need the following items: 4 eggs, 4 cups/jars, water, coffee, vinegar, coca cola, toothpaste

Most suitable for Years 7-9 (US Grades 6-8) but all ages welcome!

Please note that the session will be recorded. By registering, participants agree to follow our Online Safety Agreement. For more information, contact our Education Manager.

Funding for Franklin’s Young Inventors has generously been provided by the United States Government.


Robert H Smith Family Foundation Lecture in American Democracy – Democracy and the Supreme Court: judges and the politicians

Please note this is a past event. View upcoming events and all past virtual talks here. 

Watch this lecture here.

Join us for the annual Robert H Smith Family Foundation lecture in American Democracy which aims to promote the importance of international diplomacy and democracy in the spirit of Benjamin Franklin as a diplomat and politician.

The settled position of law and the judges in our constitution has undergone very severe stress testing over the last five years, through Brexit and coronavirus.  Those two crises demonstrate the dominance of the executive, who as coronavirus demonstrates can change the law at will if circumstances demand it, and the dominance of politics – if the politicians don’t like the limits set by the law they will not only change the law, they may change the constitution to neuter the judges.  How much at risk is the rule of law?  And what should we do about it?  Has politics prevented us from defending the rule of law? The lecture will set out the threat which is real, the consequences which are dire, and the steps we can take both to form a coalition which defends the rule of law and the specific constitutional changes needed to embed the rule of law.

Charlie Falconer (@LordCFalconer) is an English qualified barrister and partner based in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s London office.  The former UK Lord Chancellor and first Secretary of State for Justice spent 25 years as a commercial barrister, becoming a QC in 1991.

Chaired by Paul Apostolidis, Associate Professorial Lecturer and Deputy Head of Department for Education in the Department of Government at LSE.

This event is hosted in partnership with the Department of Government (@LSEGovernment), the world-leading centre for study and research in politics and government.