Virtual Talks Available Online!

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Upcoming Virtual Events 

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Ben’s Book Club: ‘Past and Prologue’ by Michael D. Hattem
Wednesday July 7th 2021, 5pm BST/12pm ET. Register here. 

This month we will be talking to Michael D. Hattem about his book, ‘Past and Prologue: Politics and Memory in the American Revolution’ which illustrates how colonists’ changing understandings of their British and colonial histories shaped the politics of the American Revolution and the origins of American national identity. Find out more about this event here.

Ben’s Book Club Family Edition: ‘A Ben of All Trades’ by Michael J. Rosen
Wednesday August 18th 2021, 5pm BST/12pm EDT. Register here. 

In this month’s special family edition of Ben’s Book Club, we will be talking to Michael J. Rosen about his book, ‘A Ben of All Trades: The Most Inventive Boyhood of Benjamin Franklin’. This rousing biography, illustrated by Matt Tavares, reveals how Benjamin Franklin’s boyhood shaped his amazingly multifaceted life. Find out more about this event here.

Past Virtual Events

Benjamin Franklin

Franklin’s Early Years

The House’s Education Manager, Eleanor Hamblen, explores Benjamin Franklin’s early years. From his childhood inventions to the time he spent as an apprentice to both his father and brother prior to his first visit to London in 1724. Uncover the formative experiences which shaped this Founding Father as we remember him today.

Watch the full talk and Q&A here

Franklin’s Life in London

George Goodwin, our Honorary Author in
Residence at Benjamin Franklin House, captures the fullness of Dr Franklin’s life in the heaving metropolis of 18th century London. He describes Franklin’s friendship with men such as Joseph Priestley and the notorious Francis Dashwood, charts Franklin’s political cooperation with Prime Ministers William Pitt the Elder and the Marquess of Rockingham, and details the final antagonism with the ‘mangling ministers’ in Lord North’s administration which ultimately made Franklin the fiercest of American patriots. In a highly illustrated talk, George tells Benjamin Franklin’s London story with wit and verve.

Watch the full talk and Q&A here

Franklin’s Final Years 

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

Franklin the Innovator 

A whistle-stop tour of Franklin’s many ingenious inventions, from the lightening rod to the glass armonica and the Franklin stove. House Education Manager, Eleanor Hamblen, will reflect on how Franklin’s scientific process led him to become one of the key figures of the Enlightenment and how his discoveries have shaped our modern world.

Watch the full talk and Q&A here.

Benjamin Franklin and the Art of Diplomacy 

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.

Watch the full lecture here.

Benjamin Franklin, Swimmer with Professor Sarah Pomeroy

A presentation by our inaugural Lady Joan Reid Children’s Author in Residence, Professor Sarah B. Pomeroy, interviewed by Lynn Sherr about her book, Benjamin Franklin, Swimmer (American Philosophical Society Press, 2021), inspired by Franklin’s love of swimming, and one of his first inventionsswimming fins! 

Watch the full conversation here.

Franklin in Portraits: Robert Feke

To celebrate the launch of our virtual exhibition, Franklin in Portraits, on the free Bloomberg Connects app, this is the first in a series of talks about Benjamin Franklin’s most famous portraits over the years. We began our series with a discussion on what is widely believed to be the earliest known portrait of Benjamin Franklin painted by Robert Feke in 1738-1746. Dr George Boudreau in conversation with Professor Zara Anishanslin discusses the significance of this early portrait and the wider context of 18th century portraiture.

Watch the full conversation here.

Franklin in Portraits: Benjamin West

This portrait commemorates Benjamin Franklin’s famous kite and key experiment and the invention of the lightning rod but was painted after Franklin’s death in 1790. It was originally meant to be part of a larger piece for the Philadelphia Hospital, an institution founded by Franklin. West met Franklin when he was in London as the second president of the Royal Academy of Arts.  Dr George Boudreau, cultural historian of early Anglo-America, speaks to Carol Eaton Soltis, Project Associate Curator in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Department of American Art.

Watch the full conversation here.

Franklin in Portraits: Charles Willson Peale after David Martin

Dr. Janine Yorimoto Boldt and Dr George Boudreau discuss the differences between two paintings and what these differences symbolize for Early American portraiture. These are 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.

Watch the full talk here.


Franklin’s Character Virtues

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?

Watch the full talk by Dr Márcia Balisciano here.

Benjamin Franklin and Slavery

Benjamin Franklin was born at a time when the abhorrent practice of slaveholding was common.  He was initially accepting of owning slaves, and came to London with two enslaved men, Peter and King. His years on Craven Street led to a fundamental transformation. House Director, Dr. Márcia Balisciano, explains how Franklin became the American founder who campaigned against slavery, spending his last days as the President of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.

Watch the full talk and Q&A here.

The 18th Century

18th Century Coffeehouses

Find out how Benjamin Franklin used the stimulating environment of coffeehouses to help shape his early political ideals. These public and social establishments were centres of the 18th century Enlightenment and provided a foundation of early American politics. This fascinating talk is by by House Operations Manager, Caitlin Hoffman.

Watch the full talk and Q&A here.

18th Century Cooking

This talk by House Operations Manager, Caitlin Hoffman, delves into 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 here

Morality and François-Marc-Louis Naville

This fascinating talk is by Harro Maas, professor in history and methodology of economics at the Centre Walras-Pareto for the history of economic and political thought at the University of Lausanne. Using the words from the diary of François-Marc-Louis Naville, a turn-of-the 19th century Genevese pastor and pedagogical innovator, as a cue Maas examines the use of Benjamin Franklin’s tools of moral calculation and a lesser known tool, Marc-Antoine Jullien’s moral thermometer, to improve his moral character.

Watch the full talk and Q&A here.

The Rise of the Private Banker

Dr Perry Gauci, Tutor in Modern History at Lincoln College, Oxford University, speaks 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. This talk examines 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.

Watch the full talk and Q&A here.

Franklin’s Friends and American History

Washington, Franklin, and the British

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.

Watch the full talk here.

The Story of Thomas Paine

Paul Myles examines 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 published in 2020, 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 here.

The Trials of James Graham in the Revolutionary Atlantic World with Dr. James P. Ambuske

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. 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, discusses Graham’s journey from slavery to freedom and the questions that his case raised in an increasingly complicated revolutionary world.

Watch the full talk here.

The Battle of Queenston Heights, 1812

“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 and House Manager and Curator of the Emery Walker Trust speaks on the Battle of Queenston Heights, a seminal battle in the War of 1812. This talk explores why the United States entered into war with Great Britain (referred to by some as the ‘Second War of Independence’) and discusses in detail the Battle of Queenston Heights, the first major battle in the war. Mallory is especially interested in identity, so explores 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

The Motel in America

This talk explores the early development of a distinctly American form of lodging, the motel. A child of the automobile age, the ‘motor hotel’ first flourished during the Depression and experienced its heyday after WWII. Dr Cara Rodway, Deputy Head of the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, and Chair of the British Association for American Studies, shares her passion for these ordinary yet surprising and evocative places and discusses what they have come to represent in contemporary American culture.

Watch the full talk and Q&A here

American Sheet Music at the British Library

Although once disregarded by historians as sentimental and ephemeral, today American sheet music is valued for the unique light it sheds upon the nation’s concerns and aspirations. In this talk, Eccles Centre for American Studies librarian Jean Petrovic shares items held at the British Library. She considers how this music moved ‘from the sacred to the secular and from the timeless to the timely’ and explores how songs associated with WWI and the movement for female suffrage captured, reflected – and possibly even shaped – the cultural and political zeitgeist.

For more information follow the link here

American Politics

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 speculates on what to expect from the Democratic and Republican Conventions, and anticipates the routes that might be taken to Election Day in November.

Watch the full talk and Q&A here

US Presidential Debate 2020

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, asks 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.

Watch the full debate here.

What Would Franklin Think About Facebook? (Fulbright Lecture Series) 

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.

Amy Werbel, Fulbright Scholar to the United Kingdom and Professor at the State University of New York-Fashion Institute of Technology, ponders how the prospect of greater censorship of social media, Franklin’s experiences and views, shed necessary light on our best path forward in tumultuous times.

Watch the full talk and Q&A here

Ben’s Book Club

Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography with Dr George Boudreau

Our first edition of Ben’s Book Club, a monthly virtual gathering looking at themes ​related to Benjamin Franklin, the 18th ​century, and American ​history. This instalment explores Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography with the help of Dr George Boudreau, public historian and Benjamin Franklin expert.

Watch the full session here.

‘The Knife Man’ by Wendy Moore

For the October instalment of Ben’s Book Club we talked to Wendy Moore about her first book ‘The Knife Man’, a fascinating biography of the John Hunter. This celebrated anatomist trained Dr William Hewson, a fellow resident of 36 Craven Street during Benjamin Franklin’s stay, who ran a private anatomy school from the garden.

Watch the full session here.

‘A World on Fire’ by Dr Amanda Foreman

For the November installment of Ben’s Book Club, we talked to Dr Amanda Foreman about her brilliant narrative, ‘A World on Fire’, which tells the fascinating story of the American Civil War–and the major role played by Britain and its citizens in that epic struggle.

Watch the full session here.


‘Christmas Traditions’ by George Goodwin

This month we took 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.

Watch the full session here.

‘The Fortunes of Francis Barber’ by Michael Bundock

This month we talked 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.

Watch the full session here.

 ‘Tacky’s Revolt’ by Vincent Brown

This month we talked 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. Vincent Brown is Charles Warren Professor of American History and Professor of African and African American Studies.

Watch the full session here.

‘Georgian London: Into the Streets’ by Lucy Inglis

This month we talked to Lucy Inglis about her book ‘Georgian London: Into the Streets’, which takes readers on a tour of London’s most formative age – the age of love, sex, intellect, art, great ambition and fantastic ruin.

Watch the full session here.


‘White Fury’ by Christer Petley

Christer Petley talked about his book ‘White Fury’, which tells the story of sugar planter Simon Taylor, one of the wealthiest and most influential slaveholders of the eighteenth-century British empire.

Watch the full session here.


‘Fanny Burney: her life’ by Kate Chisholm

Kate Chisholm tells the story of Fanny Burney, who is best known for her book Evelina, one of the most engaging novels of the eighteenth century. Over the course of her long life, she was also an incomparable diarist, witnessing both the madness of George III and the young Queen Victoria’s coronation.  

Watch the full session here.

‘Thomas Paine and the Clarion Call for American Independence’ by Harlow Giles Unger

Harlow Giles Unger spoke about his book ‘Thomas Paine and the Clarion Call for American Independence’, which chronicles how Thomas Paine became the most widely read political writer of his generation, proving that he was more than a century ahead of his time, conceiving and demanding unheard-of social reforms that are now integral elements of modern republican societies. Watch the full session here.

Other virtual talks 

Women of WWI – The military hospital at Endell Street

Author and journalist Wendy Moore, who acts as a judge for the Benjamin Franklin House Literary Prize, discusses her latest book, ‘Endell Street’ (published in the US as ‘No Man’s Land’). This military hospital was run entirely by women and played a key role in the treatment of injured British soldiers during World War One. It was situated just minutes away from Franklin’s former home on Craven Street.

Watch the full talk and Q&A here

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? This fascinating talk is by Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK, The Spectator columnist, and Board Member of Benjamin Franklin House.

Watch the full talk and Q&A here

Back to all past virtual events