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.

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.

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.

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.

Franklin & Washington: Edward J. Larson in conversation with Dr. Márcia Balisciano

During their lifetimes and in the years since, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington have been the subject of great literary interest. Yet each has typically been a minor player in the chronicles of the other – until now. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward J. Larson’s new book, Franklin & Washington, uncovers the close relationship between these two principal founders of the United States. Professor Larson, University Professor of History and Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University, who was also an inaugural Fellow at the Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, will be in conversation with Dr. Márcia Balisciano, Director of the Benjamin Franklin House in London, the world’s only surviving Franklin home. On the table will be the genesis of Franklin and Washington’s friendship and its impact on the American story, and their legacies in a time of challenge.

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

Ben’s Book Club: ‘The Knife Man’ by Wendy Moore

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

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

This month we will be talking to Wendy Moore about her first book ‘The Knife Man’, a fascinating biography of the 18th century surgeon John Hunter. This celebrated anatomist was a contemporary of Dr William Hewson, a fellow resident of 36 Craven Street during Benjamin Franklin’s stay, who ran a private anatomy school from the garden. Both were trained by John’s elder brother William. In later years John advised Franklin on his health.

Revered and feared in equal measure, John Hunter was the most famous surgeon of eighteenth-century London. Rich or poor, aristocrat or human freak, suffering Georgians knew that Hunter’s skills might well save their lives but if he failed, their corpses could end up on his dissecting table, their bones and organs destined for display in his remarkable, macabre museum. Maverick medical pioneer, adored teacher, brilliant naturalist, Hunter was a key figure of the Enlightenment who transformed surgery, advanced biological understanding and even anticipated the evolutionary theories of Darwin. He provided inspiration both for Dr Jekyll and Dr Dolittle. But the extremes to which he went to pursue his scientific mission raised question marks then as now.

‘The Knife Man’ won the UK Medical Journalists’ Association Consumer Book Award and was short-listed for the Marsh Biography Award and the Saltire Award. Other titles by Wendy Moore include ‘Wedlock‘, ‘How to Create the Perfect Wife‘, ‘The Mesmerist’, and her latest publication ‘Endell Street’ tells the story of the suffragette doctors who ran a Military Hospital in the heart of London in World War One. Wendy is a prize-winning author and freelance journalist who has written for numerous national newspapers including the GuardianTimesSunday Telegraph and Express as well as for medical journals including the Lancet and BMJ. She is one of the members of the judging panel for the annual Benjamin Franklin House Literary Prize for young writers and you can watch her virtual talk on ‘Endell Street’ here.

You can buy ‘The Knife Man’ 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: ‘A World on Fire’ by Amanda Foreman

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

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

This month we will be talking to Dr Amanda Foreman about her brilliant narrative, ‘A World on Fire’, in which she tells the fascinating story of the American Civil War–and the major role played by Britain and its citizens in that epic struggle.

Between 1861 and 1865, thousands of British citizens volunteered for service on both sides of the Civil War. From the first cannon blasts on Fort Sumter to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, they served as officers and infantrymen, sailors and nurses, blockade runners and spies. Through personal letters, diaries, and journals, Foreman introduces characters both humble and grand, while crafting a panoramic yet intimate view of the war on the front lines, in the prison camps, and in the great cities of both the Union and the Confederacy. In the drawing rooms of London and the offices of Washington, on muddy fields and aboard packed ships, Foreman reveals the decisions made, the beliefs held and contested, and the personal triumphs and sacrifices that ultimately led to the reunification of America.

‘A World on Fire’ was the winner of the Fletcher Pratt Award for Civil War History, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and was selected for the New York Times Top Ten Books of 2011. Amanda Foreman is also the author of the best-selling ‘Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire’. In 2016, Foreman served as chair of The Man Booker Prize. That same year, her BBC documentary series, ‘The Ascent of Woman’, was released. Currently, she is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal bi-weekly ‘Historically Speaking’ and an Honorary Research Senior Fellow in the History Department at the University of Liverpool. Her next book, ‘The World Made by Women’, is scheduled to be published by Penguin Random House in 2021.

You can buy ‘A World on Fire’ 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.

(SOLD OUT) Open House London, Saturday 19 & Sunday 20 September

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 some of London’s most interesting buildings, including Grade I, 1730s Benjamin Franklin House. Half-hourly guided tours will take place throughout the day.

Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 September, 11.00am-4.30pm

Free – half-hourly tours run on a first come first served basis. Advance booking required.

Register here 

Donations welcome

Rules for a safe visit

All visitors will be required to wear masks while in the House except:

  • Children under 11
  • People with disabilities
  • Those with breathing difficulties
  • Anyone travelling with someone who relies on lip reading

Tour groups are limited to 4 people from separate households in line with social distancing measures.

Please refrain from touching public surfaces while in the House

Please do not enter the House if you feel unwell

Our staff is available should you need any assistance

For more information email info@benjaminfranklinhouse.org