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Ben Franklin and the World of the Enlightenment by Bruce Thompson

Ben Franklin and the World of the Enlightenment

by Bruce Thompson

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Printer, journalist, postmaster, scientist, inventor, diplomat, patriot, and tireless founder of civic institutions, Benjamin Franklin was the most versatile of the Founders—even more so than Jefferson. He was as famous as Washington in his day and his classic autobiography, with its celebration of the bourgeois virtues, is the only American autobiography of the 18th century that is still widely read today. Even the French loved him. But this master of self-presentation remains elusive; both his many pseudonyms and his bubbly wit helped him to maintain his distance from his contemporaries.

This course will examine the complexity of Franklin’s personality and the diversity of his achievements. In particular, it will explore Franklin’s place in the transatlantic cultural world of the 18th century, focusing on what the Enlightenment meant to Franklin, and what Franklin meant to the Enlightenment.

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