Transatlantic Slavery Symposium

Daily panel discussions: Monday 9 – Friday 13 August, 5pm BST/12pm ET.

Keynote panel: Wednesday 11 August, 7pm BST/2pm ET.

Free registration here.

The Transatlantic Slavery Symposium is a joint venture between the Robert H. Smith Scholarship Centre at Benjamin Franklin House in London, the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Our aim is to bring together scholars from both sides of the Atlantic to address the lasting impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade through panel discussions on themes ranging from its historical foundations and development in the Revolutionary Atlantic world to current best practices in the museums and heritage sector. We hope that by addressing this complex topic from a historical and contemporary perspective, that we can spark further discussions on how to bring stories of enslaved people to the forefront of public history internationally.

Capitalism and Slavery

Wednesday, August 11, 2021, 12:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. GMT

Keynote: Public Programming and Interpreting Slavery in the Founding Era

Wednesday, August 11, 2021, 2:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. GMT

Historic Sites Interpreting Slavery

Thursday, August 12, 2021, 12:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. GMT

Ben’s Book Club: Thomas Jefferson’s Idea of a University with Andrew O’Shaughnessy

Wednesday 15 September, 12pm ET/5pm BST. Register here.

This month we will be talking to Dr Andrew O’Shaughnessy about his book “The Illimitable Freedom of the Human Mind,” Thomas Jefferson’s Idea of a University’ which tells story of how Thomas Jefferson developed his ideas for education in early America and how these ideas continue to have relevance to public education in the United States to this very day. 

Thomas Jefferson was directly involved in every aspect in the creation of the University of Virginia. From the physical space to the legislation and curriculum, Jefferson stood firm in his belief in a modern 18th century education system. Although his ideas were opposed at first by his fellow politicians, Jefferson proved that he had a unique and progressive vision that can still be felt today.  

Andrew O’Shaughnessy is Vice President of Monticello, the Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and Professor of History at the University of Virginia.  He is the author of An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000).  His most recent book The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution and the Fate of the Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013) received eight national awards including the New York Historical Society American History Book Prize, the George Washington Book Prize, and the Society of Military History Book Prize. 

You can pre-order a hardcopy or e-book here (UK) or here (US).   

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. 

Open House Weekend 2021

Saturday 4 – Sunday 5 September, 12pm – 4.15pm

Open House London is the capital’s largest annual festival of architecture and design. This annual event allows the public to cross the threshold of many of London’s most interesting buildings, including Grade I listed, 1730s Benjamin Franklin House.

Free entry. Details and guided tour times TBC.

Fulbright Lecture: Spectacle and Social Order in ‘Scientific’ Prints

 

In the second half of the eighteenth century, scientific demonstrations, sponsored by Benjamin Franklin, the Midlands-based Lunar Society, and others, were popular entertainments that said as much about social order as they did about science and technology. Depicted in paintings and popular prints, the social message of these demonstrations was elevated even more. Visual references created witty social commentary, and invited a variety of audiences to find relevance in the artworks. In this talk, Prof. Louise Siddons will take a close look at mezzotints by Valentine Green after Joseph Wright and others, asking how changing audiences affected the interpretation of the imagery in his prints.

Watch here:

Dr. Siddons is Professor in Art History at Oklahoma State University whose research interests focus on the history of printmaking and photography, particularly in relation to representations of race, racialization, gender and sexuality. Her Fulbright award supports the completion of her book manuscript which will examine American photographer Laura Gilpin’s 1968 book, “The Enduring Navaho.” Siddons will examine her position within the intersectional politics of twentieth-century photography, Indigeneity and queerness, as well as discuss the propositions Gilpin made for both queer and Native self-determination and sovereignty through the book’s visuals.

For more information on Benjamin Franklin House please www.benjaminfranklinhouse.org

Franklin in Portraits: Charles Willson Peale and His Museum

To celebrate the launch of our virtual exhibition, Franklin in Portraits, join us for a series of talks about Benjamin Franklin’s most famous portraits. We continue our series with a discussion on this Charles Willson Peale portrait painted in 1785. It was ultimately made for his collection of portraits of Famous Americans for his museum in Independence Hall. Karie Diethorn, Senior Curator and Chief of Museum Branch of the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, will discuss with Dr George Boudreau the significance of this portrait and the Peale Museum. Franklin and Peale first met in London in 1767 and formed a friendship over their shared interest in natural sciences.

Watch here:

Karie Diethorn has a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and medieval studies from Penn State University and a Masters degree in American history and a certificate in museum studies from the University of Delaware.

Since 1994, she has managed Independence National Historical Park’s museum operation as chief curator.  She has taught historic site management as an Associate Professor in the University of Delaware graduate museum studies program and museum collections management as a Visiting Lecturer in Philadelphia’s University of the Arts graduate museum studies program.  She is co-author of the catalog History of the Portrait Collection, Independence National Historical Park (2001) and a contributor to the anthology of essays in Quaker Aesthetics, Reflections on a Quaker Ethic in American Design and Consumption (2003).  Her most recent exhibit project is “People of Independence 1750 to 1840”, the permanent fine arts at Independence National Historical Park.

Dr George Boudreau is a cultural historian of early Anglo-America, specializing in the history of Philadelphia, the work of Benjamin Franklin, material culture, and public history. Boudreau was the founding editor of the journal Early American Studies, and has won six major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was a fellow at Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington in 2019-20 and has previously completed fellowships at the Jamestown Rediscovery and the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg, the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, the Library Company of Philadelphia, Winterthur Museum and Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the David Library of the American Revolution. A 1998 Ph.D. from Indiana University, he is currently senior research associate at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and is a member of the Academic Advisory Panel for Benjamin Franklin House.

Digital Book Launch: The Howe Dynasty by Julie Flavell

Tuesday 24 August 2021, 12pm ET/5pm BST. Register here 

Join us for a very special digital book launch and Q&A with Julie Flavell to celebrate her newest book The Howe Dynasty: The Untold Story of a Military Family and the Women Behind Britain’s Wars for America 

In December 1774, Benjamin Franklin met Caroline Howe, the sister of British Admiral Richard and General William Howe, in a London drawing-room for “half a dozen Games of Chess.” As Julie Flavell reveals, the games concealed a matter of the utmost diplomatic urgency, a last-ditch attempt to forestall the outbreak of the American War of Independence. Aware that the Howes, both the men and the women, have seemed impenetrable to historians, Flavell investigated the letters of Caroline Howe, which have been overlooked for centuries. Using Caroline’s correspondence and other revelatory documents, Flavell provides a compelling reinterpretation of England’s famous family over four wars, centering on their enigmatic roles in the American Revolution. The Howe Dynasty interweaves action-packed stories of North American military campaigns—including the Battle of Bunker Hill and Long Island—with parlor-room intrigues back in England, creating a riveting narrative and a long overdue reassessment of the entire family. The Howe Dynasty forces us to reimagine the Revolutionary War in ways that would have been previously inconceivable. 

Born in Massachusetts, Julie Flavell has pursued a lifelong interest in Anglo-American relationships as reflected in her first book, When London Was Capital of America. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Flavell lives in Britain. 

Virtual Talk: The Trials of James Graham in the Revolutionary Atlantic World

During the final years of the American Revolution, the Royal Navy tried to impress a formerly enslaved man named James Graham into military service. Graham’s legal battle to avoid conscription made its way to the Court of Session, Scotland’s supreme civil court, where the judges had to decide whether or not Graham’s past life as an enslaved mariner could be used to justify service as a free man to king and country.

In this talk, Dr. James P. Ambuske, Digital History at George Washington’s Mount Vernon and co-director of the Scottish Court of Session Digital Archive Project at the University of Virginia Law Library, will discuss Graham’s journey from slavery to freedom and the questions that his case raised in an increasingly complicated revolutionary world.

Franklin in Portraits: Charles Willson Peale after David Martin

To celebrate the launch of our virtual exhibition, Franklin in Portraits, join us for a series of talks about Benjamin Franklin’s most famous portraits. We continue our series with a discussion on the differences between two versions of the same portrait: Benjamin Franklin by David Martin and the copy made by Charles Willson Peale in 1785, given to the American Philosophical Society. The original portrait by Martin was commissioned by Robert Alexander of the firm of William Alexander & Sons, in Edinburgh. It is meant to represent Benjamin Franklin as an Enlightenment figure and English gentleman. It is also one of the rare portraits done during his time in London while he was living at 36 Craven Street (Benjamin Franklin House). Join Dr. Janine Yorimoto Boldt and Dr George Boudreau for a discussion on the differences between the two paintings and what these differences symbolize for Early American portraiture.

Dr George Boudreau is a cultural historian of early Anglo-America, specializing in the history of Philadelphia, the work of Benjamin Franklin, material culture, and public history. Boudreau was the founding editor of the journal Early American Studies, and has won six major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was a fellow at Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington in 2019-20 and has previously completed fellowships at the Jamestown Rediscovery and the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg, the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, the Library Company of Philadelphia, Winterthur Museum and Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the David Library of the American Revolution. A 1998 Ph.D. from Indiana University, he is currently senior research associate at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and is a member of the Academic Advisory Panel for Benjamin Franklin House.

Dr. Janine Yorimoto Boldt is art historian and cultural historian specializing in early American visual culture. She is currently the Associate Curator of American Art at the Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From 2018-2020 she was the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the American Philosophical Society where she was the lead curator for the exhibition Dr. Franklin, Citizen Scientist and co-curator for the 2019 exhibition Mapping a Nation: Shaping the Early American Republic. Boldt received her PhD in American Studies from William & Mary and her scholarship focuses on the social and political functions of colonial portraiture. She is the researcher behind ColonialVirginiaPortraits.org, a digital project produced in collaboration with the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture. Her research has been supported by fellowships from Colonial Williamsburg, the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, Winterthur Museum and Library, the Decorative Arts Trust, and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.

House Talk: Benjamin Franklin and the Art of Diplomacy by Dr Márcia Balisciano

Printer, philosopher, author, scientist and inventor.  These are among the guises of the famous Dr. Franklin.  But Benjamin Franklin House Director, Dr. Márcia Balisciano, will argue his role as a diplomat was among his most important and lasting contributions. She will trace the beginnings of his diplomatic career in Philadelphia, to his presiding over the first de facto American embassy at 36 Craven Street, before leading at the French Court and building consensus, toward the end of his life, at the Constitutional Convention. 

House Talk: The Life of Polly Hewson

Thursday 15 July, 12pm ET/5pm BST. Register here.

Polly Stevenson Hewson was the daughter of Benjamin Franklin’s landlady at 36 Craven Street. A surrogate daughter to Franklin, they had an enduring friendship that remained even after he left London in 1775.  In fact, all Polly’s descendants became American thanks to Franklin as House Operations Manager, Caitlin Hoffman, will reveal.  Discover how this little-known, yet important figure in Franklin’s lifeis central to our Historical Experience.