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Benjamin Franklin (Yale Nota Bene S) Paperback – September 24, 2003

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Product Details

  • Series: Yale Nota Bene S
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Reprint edition (September 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300101627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300101621
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #789,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Excellent. . . . Sublime. . . . [An] illuminating portrait of a quintessential, and perennially contemporary, American spirit. -- Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

[An] excellent portrait . . . by the distinguished Yale historian Edmund Morgan. -- Jay Tolson, U.S. News and World Report

From the Publisher

Chosen as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review and as a best book for 2002 by the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Washington Post Book World, and Publishers Weekly, A finalist for the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for biography, A New York Times Bestseller

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Customer Reviews

Benjamin Franklin by Edmund S. Morgan is the difinative... Benjamin Franklin.
Joe Zika
In my opinion, this book is too short, too soft, too uncritical in judgement to be a serious addition to any biography-lover's bookshelf.
Anthony R. Stevens
Morgan also makes generous but appropriate use of Franklin's own written works as well as of sources contemporary with him.
Robert Morris

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Robert Adler on December 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have to confess to being almost totally ignorant about Benjamin Franklin, the subject of this lovely book by Edmund Morgan. My knowledge of Franklin stopped with the basics--trained as a printer in colonial Boston, made his way to Philadelphia while still very young, published Poor Richard's Almanac, proved that lighting was electrical, represented the American colonies in England and newly independent America in France.
In slightly more than 300 elegantly written pages, Yale historian Morgan transformed this skeleton into a living, breathing man. Although Morgan based this brief history on a wealth of source documents, he tells Franklin's story effortlessly. I felt as though I had taken a long walk with a very interesting companion, and come away with a whole new understanding of a great and complex figure.
Morgan devotes most of the book to detailing Franklin's central role in the long series of calculations and miscalculations that pushed thirteen loyal and tractable British colonies into revolution and forged them into the United States of America. Franklin, we learn, was there at every step, usually behind the scenes, but always extremely influential, a potent catalyst to change.
It's as fascinating to follow the evolution of Franklin's own thoughts and feelings about the British Empire and the future of America as it is to get to catch a replay of the fateful steps in Britain and the colonies that led to the American revolution. I wish that America were blessed with more statesmen like Franklin; we could certainly use someone like him right now.
Just one caveat--Franklin's scientific accomplishments are mentioned, but really as a side issue.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By R. Shaff on October 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Being a Ben Franklin afficionado of sorts and one who enjoys a good biography, I became quite intrigued to learn that Edmund S. Morgan was weighing in with his largess and vaunted knowledge of Franklin. Mr. Morgan, at 86 years of age, still embodies the somewhat sterotypical historian yet has extinguished himself as a gifted biographer. A Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale (he retired from full-time teaching in '86), Mr. Morgan has written more than a dozen books covering various topics and spectrums. His books have been hailed as "groundbreaking" and have won award after award. In 2000, Mr. Morgan was awarded the National Humanities Medal and cited as "one of America's most distinguished historians." If Mr. Morgan's imposing reputation isn't enough, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN has already become the source material for an online history course offered by AllLearn, the triumvirate consortium for continuing education established by Yale, Stanford and Oxford Universities. And, heaping more critical praise, this book has already been named a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and an alternate selection of the History Book Club.
As Mr. Morgan has been fond of saying, "History can be boring." Consequently, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN not only educates, but I found it entertaining as well, a claim many biographies would loved to be tagged with. Mr. Morgan extolls Franklin's intellectual gifts as well as his place in history. Thus, the reader learns a bit more about the man, Ben Franklin, than just his deeds.
Franklin was born in 1706 in Boston although he soon made his way to Philadelphia, where he began his assent into historic laurel. Franklin's public career was nothing less than extraordinary.
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59 of 64 people found the following review helpful By paul kelly on August 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Another superb book from Edmund Morgan. While there are other bios of Franklin on the market at twice the size, Professor Morgan's concise treatment of the man's life tells a story in the best sense of that word. You learn about Franklin & come to understand this complicated man as best we can. While there are dozens of major events going on during his lifetime, Morgan mentions them but doesn't waste the reader's time going into unncessary detail. Those are best left for other books.
Morgan's always been known for the quality of his writing and making history come alive with passion and pathos. An even greater skill of the author is being able to write concisely; each word counts for something.
Anyone interested in learning about the great man, Dr. Franklin, should read Morgan's book and become captivated by the man, the story, and the unique character of our remarkable country.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
There is probably no American that deserves a big biography more than Benjamin Franklin. To be sure, he has many, as befits a writer, printer, scientist, inventor, pamphleteer, statesman, and Founding Father. Now there is a remarkable small one, _Benjamin Franklin_ (Yale University Press) by Edmund S. Morgan. The author has won various prizes for history writing, but it is clear that he loves this subject. The book was begun as a preface to a digital edition of Franklin's works. Morgan writes that scholars have struggled to come up with every scrap that Franklin wrote, and it will all eventually fill around fifty printed volumes. It is all now "available on one small disk, a product of those inconceivable discoveries he dreamt of." Morgan has read all the disk "but not much else" in order to write a purposely short book (300 pages) as "a letter of introduction to a man worth knowing, worth spending time with." This is not a standard biography; we do not learn about his forebears and his birth, nor do we attend him at his death. There is no speculation about the mother of his son William, and little about his common-law wife Deborah. This is not because of restrictions of length, but more because Morgan has limited himself to what Franklin wrote and did publicly, and his book works perfectly as introduction, or re-introduction.

Morgan says that Franklin is hard to know, in part, because "it is so hard to distinguish his natural impulses from his principles." For a focus on his main endeavors, however, especially his political ones, this biography does very well. Those who think all the founding fathers were firebrands insisting on independence at the first unfair tax will learn that Franklin was England's passionate friend.
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