For the great majority of his long life, Benjamin Franklin was a loyal British royalist. In 1757, having made his fortune in Philadelphia and established his fame as a renowned experimental scientist, he crossed the Atlantic to live as a gentleman in the heaving metropolis of London. With just a brief interlude, a house in Craven Street was to be his home until 1775.
From there he mixed with the brilliant and the powerful, whether in London coffee house clubs, at the Royal Society, or on his summer travels around the British Isles and continental Europe. He counted David Hume, Matthew Boulton, Joseph Priestley, Edmund Burke, and Erasmus Darwin among his friends, and as an American Colonial representative, he had access to successive prime ministers and even the king.
The early 1760s saw Britain’s elevation to global superpower status with victory in the Seven Years War and the succession of the young, active King George III. These two events brought a sharp new edge to political competition in London and redefined the relationship between Britain and its Colonies. It would profoundly affect Franklin, too, eventually placing him in opposition with his ambitious son William.
Though Franklin long sought to prevent the break with Great Britain, his own actions would finally help cause that very event. On the eve of the American War of Independence, Franklin fled arrest and escaped by sea. He would never return to London.
With his unique focus on the fullness of Benjamin Franklin’s life in London, George Goodwin has created an enthralling portrait of the man, the city, and the age.
About the Author: George Goodwin is the author of the highly-acclaimed “Fatal Colours” and “Fatal Rivalry.” His newest book, “Benjamin Franklin in London,” has garnered considerable praise. A history graduate of Pembroke College, Cambridge, Goodwin was awarded a Foundation Exhibition.
He is Honorary Writer in Residence at Benjamin Franklin House in London, and a Fellow of both the Chartered Institute of Marketing and of the Royal Society of Arts (and a Member of the William Shipley Group for RSA History). In 2014 he was an International Fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, Monticello. George lives in Kew, a stone’s throw from the Royal Botanical Gardens.