6 episodes

Printer, journalist, postmaster, scientist, inventor, diplomat, patriot, and tireless founder of civic institutions, Benjamin Franklin was the most versatile of the Founders—even more so than Jefferson. He was as famous as Washington in his day and his classic autobiography, with its celebration of the bourgeois virtues, is the only American autobiography of the 18th century that is still widely read today. Even the French loved him. But this master of self-presentation remains elusive; both his many pseudonyms and his bubbly wit helped him to maintain his distance from his contemporaries.



This course will examine the complexity of Franklin’s personality and the diversity of his achievements. In particular, it will explore Franklin’s place in the transatlantic cultural world of the 18th century, focusing on what the Enlightenment meant to Franklin, and what Franklin meant to the Enlightenment.


Presented by the Stanford Continuing Studies Program.

Ben Franklin and the World of the Enlightenment Stanford Continuing Studies Program

    • History
    • 3.8 • 50 Ratings

Printer, journalist, postmaster, scientist, inventor, diplomat, patriot, and tireless founder of civic institutions, Benjamin Franklin was the most versatile of the Founders—even more so than Jefferson. He was as famous as Washington in his day and his classic autobiography, with its celebration of the bourgeois virtues, is the only American autobiography of the 18th century that is still widely read today. Even the French loved him. But this master of self-presentation remains elusive; both his many pseudonyms and his bubbly wit helped him to maintain his distance from his contemporaries.



This course will examine the complexity of Franklin’s personality and the diversity of his achievements. In particular, it will explore Franklin’s place in the transatlantic cultural world of the 18th century, focusing on what the Enlightenment meant to Franklin, and what Franklin meant to the Enlightenment.


Presented by the Stanford Continuing Studies Program.

    Benjamin Franklin and the World of the Enlightenment Course Syllabus

    Benjamin Franklin and the World of the Enlightenment Course Syllabus

    5. Politician, Diplomat, Statesman (August 1, 2007)

    5. Politician, Diplomat, Statesman (August 1, 2007)

    August 1, 2007 meeting of Professor Bruce Thompson's course on Benjamin Franklin that examines the complexity of Franklin's personality and the diversity of his achievements.

    • 4 sec
    4. Breaking with Britain (July 25, 2007)

    4. Breaking with Britain (July 25, 2007)

    July 25, 2007 meeting of Professor Bruce Thompson's course on Benjamin Franklin that examines the complexity of Franklin's personality and the diversity of his achievements.

    • 3 sec
    3. Scientist (July 18, 2007)

    3. Scientist (July 18, 2007)

    July 18, 2007 meeting of Professor Bruce Thompson's course on Benjamin Franklin that examines the complexity of Franklin's personality and the diversity of his achievements.

    • 3 sec
    2. Printer, Journalist, Citizen (July 11, 2007)

    2. Printer, Journalist, Citizen (July 11, 2007)

    July 11, 2007 meeting of Professor Bruce Thompson's course on Benjamin Franklin that examines the complexity of Franklin's personality and the diversity of his achievements.

    • 4 sec
    1. Pursuit of Happiness (June 27, 2007)

    1. Pursuit of Happiness (June 27, 2007)

    June 27, 2007 meeting of Professor Bruce Thompson's course on Benjamin Franklin that examines the complexity of Franklin's personality and the diversity of his achievements.

    • 3 sec

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5
50 Ratings

50 Ratings

Tony Millionaire ,

Too many ums

I didn’t make it ten minutes. You said “um” so often I had to quit.

Chessgye1 ,

Wish the volume was louder

One of the best I had discovered on iTunes U that is now defunct. I wanted to revisit this lecture and finally found it on the Apple Podcasts. My only criticism is that the volume is very low on a few of the lectures and I wish it was actually longer!

stickmanman ,

Excellent course.

The professor understand franklin and his greatness and his complexity. An easy and accessible way to learn about one of the greatest civic innovators to ever live.

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