Virtual Talk: The Rise of the Private Banker in Franklin’s London

Dr Perry Gauci, Tutor in Modern History at Lincoln College, Oxford University, will speak on the development of the banking profession in mid-Georgian London. In common with many of his fellow London residents, Franklin benefited from the increasing availability of specialist banking services, and this talk will examine the social and cultural impact of the private bankers, several of whom were located close to Craven Street. Both in their business and their sociability, the bankers were a dynamic force, and acted as key intermediaries within metropolitan society.

Image: Ben Franklin’s Wallet on display at Benjamin Franklin House

Full talk and Q&A below:

Virtual Talk: The value of being luckily wrong

There is only so much we understand. There is only so much we make sense of in advance. Are we spending too much time trying to be right, and too little time simply maximising our chances of getting lucky?

Join Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK and Board Member of Benjamin Franklin House, for this fascinating talk.

Watch the full talk and Q&A below:

Virtual Talk: ‘A Mere Matter of Marching’?: The War of 1812, The Battle of Queenston Heights

“The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching” -Thomas Jefferson, 1812

Mallory Horrill, PhD student at University College London, Institute of the Americas, House Manager and Curator of the Emery Walker Trust, and former Operations Manager of Benjamin Franklin House, will be speaking on the Battle of Queenston Heights, a seminal battle in the War of 1812. This talk will explore why the United States entered into war with Great Britain (referred to by some as the ‘Second War of Independence’) and discuss in detail the Battle of Queenston Heights, the first major battle in the war. Mallory is especially interested in identity and will explore how this battle and the larger British victory of the War of 1812 impacted and shaped the formation of the Canadian identity. 

Watch the full talk and Q&A here:

Virtual Talk: The Story of Thomas Paine by Paul Myles

In this talk, Paul Myles will look at the life and times of Thomas Paine and his role in the American Revolution, focusing on his time in the town of Lewes and the Case of the Excise Officers. 

Paul Myles was an engineer who managed large construction projects for 25 years. In 2009 he moved into history when he oversaw a major festival in Lewes to mark the 200th anniversary of Paine’s death, which led to the publication of two books: Thomas Paine in Lewes, 1768-1774: A Prelude to American Independence, released in 2009 with a new edition hot off the presses this year, and The Rise of Thomas Paine and the Case of the Excise Officers published in 2018. He is also a board member and officer of the Thomas Paine Society UK.

Watch the full talk and Q&A below:

His Final Chapter: Benjamin Franklin’s Busy Final Five Years

In this lecture, Dr. George Boudreau explores Dr. Franklin’s last years, a sometimes overlooked, but essential part of the great man’s life.  Starting with his final visit to England on the way home from ambassadorial service in Paris, the illustrated lecture explores his reputation in the Empire after America secured her independence, and then the changes he encountered in the newly United States when he returned to Philadelphia.  Franklin’s family dynamic, developing ideas about abolition and slavery, encounters with a new American economy, and continuing fascination with the scientific realm all vied for time in his busy mind as he helped write the Constitution of the United States and new Pennsylvania government.  This sage did not go gently into that good night.

Watch the full talk and Q&A here:

Virtual Talks Available Online!

Virtual Talks on demand

All past virtual talks are available on our YouTube channel here. Find playlists of themed talks below:

Upcoming Virtual Events 

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Ben’s Book Club: ‘Incomparable World’ by S I Martin

Tuesday 26 October 2021, 5pm UK/12pm ET. Register to watch the livestream here

This month S I Martin will do a reading and discuss his book Incomparable World which reimagines 1780s London, showcasing the untold stories of African-American soldiers grappling with their post-war freedom. Bursting with energy and vivid detail, Incomparable World boldly uncovers a long-buried narrative of black Britain.

Limited tickets will be available to attend in person at Benjamin Franklin House. Buy tickets to attend here.  Drink Included! 


Ben’s Book Club: ‘The Cabinet’ by Dr Lindsay M. Chervinsky

Wednesday 3 November, 12pm ET/5pm GMT. Register here 

Headshot of author Dr Lindsay M Chervinsky, smiling at the camera and the cover of her book The Cabinet

Dr Chervinsky, Senior Fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, and Professorial Lecturer at the School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University, will discuss her book, The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution, which reveals how George Washington created one of the most powerful bodies in the federal government.  


Robert H Smith Lecture in American Democracy: Justin Webb

Monday 8 November 2020, 5pm GMT/12pm ET 

Our annual Robert H Smith Lecture in American Democracy will once again be held in partnership with the LSE Department of Government. This year, the lecture will be on the theme of “Is American Democracy Under Threat?” with journalist Justin Webb. 


Book Launch: ‘Washington at the Plow’ by Bruce A. Ragsdale

Tuesday 23 November, 1pm ET/6pm GMT

Tom McCall Photography

Bruce A. Ragsdale will discuss his book, Washington at the Plow: The Founding Farmer and the Question of Slavery which depicts the “first farmer of America” as a leading practitioner of the New Husbandry, a transatlantic movement that spearheaded advancements in crop rotation.

Register here to attend virtually or here to attend in person. Drink included!


Ben’s Book Club: ‘Running from Bondage’ by Karen Cook-Bell

Wednesday 15 December, 12pm ET/5pm GMT. Register here

Karen Cook-Bell, Associate Professor of History at Bowie State University, will discuss her book, Running from Bondage, recounting the important stories of enslaved women, who comprised one-third of all runaways, and the ways in which they fled, or attempted to flee, bondage during and after the Revolutionary War.

Virtual Talk: Reflecting on the US Primaries

Philip Davies, Professor Emeritus of American Studies, De Montfort University, discusses what the primary season holds and reflects on the months since the opening contests in Iowa and New Hampshire: both the winnowing of a huge field of Democratic hopefuls and the fortunes of those Republicans with the temerity to challenge President Trump.  Looking forward he will speculate on what to expect from the Democratic and Republican Conventions, and anticipate the routes that might be taken to Election Day in November.

Watch the full talk and Q&A below:

Virtual Talk: What Would Benjamin Franklin Think About Facebook?

As both a publisher and postmaster, Benjamin Franklin frequently had to confront the vexing challenge of squaring the ideals of truth and liberty with the realities of immorality and the threat of harm to private and public interests. While he advocated fiercely for the rights of journalists, Franklin also committed himself to restricting material from his publications that “might countenance Vice, or promote Immorality,” as well as “such things as might do real Injury to any person.” Always, he worried that “an evil magistrate intrusted with power to punish for words would be armed with a weapon the most destructive and terrible.” As we ponder the prospect of greater censorship of social media, Franklin’s experiences and views shed necessary light on our best path forward in tumultuous times.

Amy Werbel, Fulbright Scholar to the United Kingdom and Professor at the State University of New York-Fashion Institute of Technology, is the author of Lust on Trial: Censorship and the Rise of American Obscenity in the Age of Anthony Comstock (Columbia University Press, 2018).

Watch the full talk and Q&A here:


Virtual Talk: Franklin and the Joys of 18th Century Cooking

Join the House’s Operations Manager, Caitlin Hoffman, in exploring the savoury (and unsavoury!) 18th Century diet and how Benjamin Franklin might be considered an early foodie. Discover why the Georgians drank beer in the morning and how Franklin introduced some of his favourite foods from the colonies to his London hosts.

Watch the full talk and Q&A below:

Virtual Talk: Character virtues for the 21st century?

What is good character?  Why does it matter?

Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century had an abiding faith in the power of good character to improve quality of life for an individual and society at large. As a young man, Benjamin Franklin identified 13 character virtues.  What were they?  Did they improve his character and are they instructive for ours?  Join (founding) Benjamin Franklin House Director, Dr. Márcia Balisciano, for a fun and informative talk with virtual Q&A.

Watch the full talk and Q&A below: