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The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin


  • 2 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 206 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.45 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521871341)

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The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin
Cambridge University Press
9780521871341 - The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin - Edited by Carla Mulford

The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin

Comprehensive and accessible, this Companion addresses several well-known themes in the study of Franklin and his writings, while also showing Franklin in conversation with his British and European counterparts in science, philosophy, and social theory. Specially commissioned chapters, written by scholars well known in their respective fields, examine Franklin’s writings and his life with a new sophistication, placing Franklin in his cultural milieu while revealing the complexities of his intellectual, literary, social, and political views. Individual chapters take up several traditional topics, such as Franklin and the American Dream, Franklin and capitalism, and Franklin’s views of American national character. Other chapters delve into Franklin’s library and his philosophical views on morality, religion, science, and the Enlightenment and explore his continuing influence in American culture. This Companion will be essential reading for students and scholars of American literature, history, and culture.

Cambridge Companions to American Studies

This series of Companions to key figures in American history and culture is aimed at students of American studies, history, and literature. Each volume features newly commissioned essays by experts in the field, with a chronology and guide to further reading.

Volumes published:

The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin edited by Carla Mulford

The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Jefferson edited by Frank Shuffelton

The Cambridge Companion to W. E. B. Du Bois edited by Shamoon Zamir

Volumes in preparation:

The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan edited by Kevin Dettmar

The Cambridge Companion to Frederick Douglass edited by Maurice Lee

The Cambridge Companion to Malcolm X edited by Robert Terrill

The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin

Edited by

Carla Mulford

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK

Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:

© Cambridge University Press 2008

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2008

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data

The Cambridge companion to Benjamin Franklin / edited by Carla Mulford.
p. cm. – (Cambridge companions to American studies)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-521-87134-1 (hardback)
1. Franklin, Benjamin, 1706–1790 – Political and social views. 2. Franklin, Benjamin,
1706–1790 – Knowledge and learning. 3. Franklin, Benjamin, 1706–1790 – Influence.
4. Statesmen – United States – Biography. 5. Scientists – United States – Biography.
6. United States – Intellectual life – 18th century. I. Mulford, Carla, 1955–
II. Title: Companion to Benjamin Franklin. III. Series.
E302.6.F8C218 2008
973.3092 – dc22 [b] 2008033470

ISBN 978-0-521-87134-1 hardback
ISBN 978-0-521-69186-4 paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


List of illustrations
Notes on contributors
Method of citation
Chronology of Franklin’s life
Compiled by Rochelle Raineri Zuck
Carla Mulford
1.    Benjamin Franklin’s library
Kevin J. Hayes
2.    The Art of Virtue
Douglas Anderson
3.    Franklin’s satiric vein
Paul E. Kerry
4.    Franklin in the republic of letters
David S. Shields
5.    Benjamin Franklin’s natural philosophy
Joyce E. Chaplin
6.    Franklin and the Enlightenment
Frank Kelleter
7.    Franklin and the question of religion
Kerry Walters
8.    The pragmatist in Franklin
James Campbell
9.    Franklin on national character and the Great Seal of the United States
Lester C. Olson
10.   Protestant ethic or conspicuous consumption? Benjamin Franklin and the Gilded Age
Wilson J. Moses
11.   Benjamin Franklin and the American Dream
Nian-Sheng Huang and Carla Mulford
12.   Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, then and now
Stephen Carl Arch
Further reading


1.    The Great Seal of the United States, as engraved on the title page, Constitutions des Treize Etats-Unis de l’Amérique [translated by Louis-Alexandre, duc de la Rochefoucault], (Paris and Philadelphia: [Philippe-Denis] Pierres, 1783). Photograph courtesy of the American Philosophical Society.
2.    The Great Seal of the United States, as engraved on the title page of The Definitive Treaty between Great Britain, and the United States of America, Signed at Paris, the 3d day of September 1783 ([Passy: Press of Benjamin Franklin], 1783). Photograph courtesy of the American Philosophical Society.


Douglas Anderson is Sterling-Goodman Professor of English at the University of Georgia. He is the author of A House Undivided: Domesticity and Community in American Literature (1990), The Radical Enlightenments of Benjamin Franklin (1997), and William Bradford’s Books: Of Plimmoth Plantation And The Printed Word (2003), as well as twenty articles and book chapters on major figures in English and American literature from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries.

Stephen Carl Arch is Professor of English and Chair of the Department of English at Michigan State University. He is the author of two book-length studies, Authorizing the Past: The Rhetoric of History in Seventeenth-Century New England (1994) and After Franklin: The Emergence of Autobiography in Post-Revolutionary America, 1780–1830 (2001), as well as numerous articles on early American literature. He has edited Ethan Allen’s Narrative of Col. Ethan Allen’s Captivity for classroom use, and is currently editing two James Fenimore Cooper novels for The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper series. He is also writing a book tentatively titled Modes of Excess in the Age of Jackson and focusing on rhetorical and social violence in the 1830s in the United States.

James Campbell was educated at Temple University and SUNY/Stony Brook and is currently Distinguished University Professor at the University of Toledo. He has been a Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Innsbruck (1990–91), and the University of Munich (2003–04). He is editor of Selected Writings of James Hayden Tufts (1992) and co-editor of a collection of forthcoming essays, Experience as Philosophy: On the Work of John J. McDermott. He has published The Community Reconstructs: The Meaning of Pragmatic Social Thought (1992), Understanding John Dewey: Nature and Cooperative Intelligence (1995), Recovering Benjamin Franklin: An Exploration of a Life of Science and Service (1999), and A Thoughtful Profession: The Early Years of the American Philosophical Association (2006).

Joyce E Chaplin is James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History at Harvard University. She received her BA from Northwestern University and her MA and PhD from the Johns Hopkins University, and has taught at Vanderbilt University, the University of Leeds, and the University of Sydney, in addition to Harvard. She is the author of An Anxious Pursuit: Agricultural Innovation and Modernity in the Lower South, 1730–1815 (1993), Subject Matter: Technology, the Body, and Science on the Anglo-American Frontier, 1500–1670 (2001), and The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius (2006), and is the editor of “Benjamin Franklin: A How-to Guide: Catalog of an Exhibition,” a special edition of the Harvard Library Bulletin, vol. 17 (2006). She is currently working on a history of circumnavigation.

Kevin J Hayes Professor of English at the University of Central Oklahoma, co-authored The Library of Benjamin Franklin (2006) with Edwin Wolf 2nd. Professor Hayes has written several other books including A Colonial Woman’s Bookshelf (1996), Folklore and Book Culture (1997), and The Library of William Byrd of Westover (1997), for which he was awarded the Virginia Library History Award presented by the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Center for the Book.

Nian-Sheng Huang is Professor of History at California State University, Channel Islands. He worked with Professor Michael Kammen at Cornell University, where he obtained the PhD in History in 1990. He is the author of Benjamin Franklin in American Thought and Culture, 1790–1990 (1994) and Franklin’s Father Josiah: Life of a Colonial Boston Tallow Chandler, 1657–1745 (2000). His article, “From the ‘Fur Cap’ to Poor Richard: The Chinese Connection,” appeared in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (June 2006). His new book-length research project, a study of the poor in colonial Massachusetts, has won a Massachusetts Historical Society and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for 2007–08.

Frank Kelleter is Chair of American Studies at Göttingen University, Germany. His publications include a book on death in modern literature, Die Moderne und der Tod (1997), a volume on Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, Con/Tradition (2000), and a study of competing discourses and practices of Enlightenment in eighteenth-century America, Amerikanische Aufklärung (2002). He is the author of articles on Puritan missionaries, the poetry of the early republic, Herman Melville, Philip Roth, and other American authors.

Paul E Kerry a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University, is Associate Professor of History and member of the European Studies faculty at Brigham Young University. He has published Enlightenment Thought in the Writings of Goethe (2001), in addition to collections of essays on Goethe, Schiller, Carlyle, and Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. His current projects include a book manuscript on German intellectual history, an edited volume on J. R. R. Tolkien, and a co-edited collection on Benjamin Franklin’s intellectual world. He is an associate editor of a University of California critical edition of Carlyle’s essays. He has been a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge and affiliated with Pembroke College.

Wilson J Moses is Ferree Professor of American History at the Pennsylvania State University. He has held Fulbright Professorships in Berlin and Vienna and has visited Europe and Africa on behalf of the United States Information Agency. He is author of The Golden Age of Black Nationalism (1978), Black Messiahs and Uncle Toms (1982), Alexander Crummell (1989), The Wings of Ethiopia (1990), Afrotopia: Roots of African–American Popular History (1998), and Creative Conflict in African American Thought (2004). He is the editor of three documentary volumes, and over one hundred articles, essays, and reviews. He is currently completing a study of Enlightened Despotism and the American Foundation Myth.

Carla Mulford Founding President of the Society of Early Americanists, is Associate Professor of English at the Pennsylvania State University. She has published seven books and over fifty articles and book chapters, including twelve on Benjamin Franklin. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (through the American Philosophical Society and the Library Company of Philadelphia) to assist her work on her book manuscript, now in its final writing stages, Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire.

Lester C Olson is Professor of Communication at the University of Pittsburgh, where he specializes in public address, rhetoric, and visual culture. His books include Emblems of American Community in the Revolutionary Era: A Study in Rhetorical Iconology (1991) and Benjamin Franklin’s Vision of American Community: A Study in Rhetorical Iconology (2004). His book on Franklin was recognized with awards from the Rhetoric Society of America and the National Communication Association, the two largest communication and rhetoric societies in the United States. His essays concerning Franklin’s pictorial representations of British America can be found in the Quarterly Journal of Speech. He earned his PhD from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1984.

David S Shields McClintock Professor of Southern Letters at the University of South Carolina, edited the Library of America’s anthology American Poetry: The Seventeenth & Eighteenth Centuries (2008). He also compiled the web-based Archive of Early Southern Recipes hosted by the Southern Foodways Alliance. Former editor of the journal Early American Literature, he directs the Southern Texts Society. He is currently writing a history of photography and silent cinema. His book, Arrested Beauty: Photography and the American Silent Cinema, is forthcoming from Harvard University Press.

Kerry Walters is William Bittinger Professor of Philosophy at Gettysburg College. He is the author of twenty books, including Benjamin Franklin and His Gods (1998), The American Deists: Voices of Reason and Dissent in the Early Republic (1992), and Rational Infidels: The American Deists (1992).

Rochelle Raineri Zuck completed her dissertation in American literature under the direction of Carla Mulford at the Pennsylvania State University (PhD, English, May 2008). Her project, “Imperium in Imperio: Race, Ethnicity, and Transnational Citizenship in American Culture, 1816–1887,” explores competing racial and ethnic nationhoods in nineteenth-century America. She is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in American literature.

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