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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb introduction to US history, 29 Feb 2012
This review is from: Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (Hardcover)
Written as it is for an American (US) audience, this book assumes a certain background knowledge about Washington and the constitution as well as major battles during the so called American revolution for independence. I did not necessarily have this background knowledge and never had an adequate appreciation of US history (having had the good fortune to visit the White House and Jefferson's home), until I read this book.

And this is why. Franklin was a universal man, not just an American. His Christianity was a universal, non-dogmatic creed that appreciated all of humanity. Franklin's world spans English origins, to Pennsylvania, back to England more than once, then France just before the revolution and finally back to the US at the time the constitution was being drafted. The book lives and breathes the air of time travel in these disparate worlds and keeps up with Franklins output, literal, moral, scientific, political and statesman.

The author is extremely catholic in his appreciation of the diversity of Franklins culture and career in the context of England and France as well as the primordial USA. For example, he starts by indicating the two possible dates of Franklin's birth based on the Gregorian calendar and the old English calendar before 1752.

Franklin's flaws, his coldness to his wife and son are revealed within the context of a man of great compassion, wisdom and fun (his "air baths") enjoying as his did books, travel and ladies' company. There is meticulous analysis of his writings such as Old Moore's Almanack ... fortunately the author has a wealth of sources to consult. You can read about Franklin's dalliance with electricity and the truth about capturing lightning and his calming the waters using oil.

Franklin remained tied to the mother country and only moved reluctantly to declaring independence for the USA. This passage from being loyal to secessionist is dealt with in detail. At the end, he was reconciled to the mother country and was shrewd in playing the British against the French. It is Franklin's cordial legacy that is reflected in the alliance between the US and the UK despite a flurry of frictions since US independence. Indeed, initially, Franklin was keen that Canada should remain a UK colony unlike the US.

A tremendous and worthy read that will teach you much about statecraft and history through the eyes of one of the greatest Americans who ever lived. This is a lot better treatment of its subject than the author has applied to Steve Jobs.
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