Benjamin Franklin’s life, ideas, and legacy offer an outstanding lens through which to view early American history and culture. During his long life (1706-1790), Benjamin Franklin was a writer, inventor, community leader, scholar, revolutionary, diplomat, and lawmaker.
His words gave meaning to the lives of colonists who were becoming Americans. His inventions reflected the ideas and needs of his fellow citizens. His actions ensured the development of colonial society, the creation of the American republic, and its security under the Constitution.
Benjamin Franklin witnessed many of the most significant changes in modern history during his long life. Born in Puritan Boston just a few years after the Salem Witchcraft Trials, he lived to be one of the leading figures in the worldwide Enlightenment.
A loyal patriot to the English monarchy in his youth, he became a leader in the revolution that separated America’s ties with his once-beloved England. Society, politics, culture, science: each changed during Franklin’s life, and each influenced and was influenced by his life and work.
How can I teach my students about Benjamin Franklin?
Want to know more? Edmund S. Morgan's brief biographical essay, written in conjunction with Yale University's Franklin Papers project, is a great place to start.
Historic sites preserve the stories of people who lived in another time. Numerous sites in two countries tell Franklin's story, from runaway lad to internationally famous scientist and philosopher.
Benjamin Franklin was one of the eighteenth century's most prolific writers. Yale University has been publishing volumes of Franklin's Papers for decades, and has now made available a digital edition of all of Franklin's writings. It's a great way to understand the man, his era, his developing mind, and the changing world around him.