Episode 149: George Goodwin, Benjamin Franklin in London

Over the course of his long life, Benjamin Franklin traveled to and lived in London on two different occasions. The first time he went as a teenager. The second, as a man and colonial agent. All told he spent nearly 18 years living in the heart of the British Empire.

How did Franklin’s experiences in London shape his opportunities and view of the world?

George Goodwin, author of Benjamin Franklin in London: The British Life of America’s Founding Father, leads us on an exploration of Franklin’s life in London.

This episode originally posted as Episode 086.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

We explore Benjamin Franklin’s life in London with George Goodwin, author of Benjamin Franklin in London: The British Life of America’s Founding Father.

During our investigation, George reveals the story behind how Benjamin Franklin became a printer; Details about Franklin’s various stays in London; And how Franklin came to embrace the politics of the American Revolution.

What You’ll Discover

  • Why the Franklin family traded Old England for New England in the 17th century
  • How Ben Franklin went from “tithing son” to printer
  • Franklin’s relationship with his brother James Franklin
  • The Silence Dogood letters
  • Why Ben Franklin relocated to Philadelphia
  • Franklin’s first trip to London in 1724
  • How Boston and Philadelphia compared with London in size in 1724
  • Details about Franklin’s printing business
  • Franklin the scientist
  • Franklin’s kite experiment
  • Why Pennsylvania sent Franklin to London in 1757
  • The role of colonial agents
  • Franklin’s return to London in 1757
  • Franklin’s involvement with the Stamp Act
  • Franklin’s shift towards revolutionary politics
  • Franklin’s letter to Thomas Cushing and its enclosures from Thomas Hutchinson and Andrew Oliver
  • Franklin’s appearance before the Privy Council on 29 January 1774
  • Why Franklin fled London for Philadelphia in 1775


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Time Warp Question

In your opinion, what might have happened if Parliament hadn’t rejected the Earl of Chatham’s proposal? Would Benjamin Franklin have remained loyal to Great Britain?  And if so, what affect would the absence of Patriot Ben Franklin have had on the American Revolution?

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