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University of Pennsylvania

Benjamin Franklin and His World

University of Pennsylvania via Coursera


Welcome to Benjamin Franklin and His World! In this course, we explore the life of one of the United States’ most important historical figures. We examine Franklin’s early life growing up in the American colonies, his professional career as a printer and scientist, and his role in the American Revolution and the founding the United States as a new nation on the world stage.

We will also confront the moral issues that complicate the legacy of Benjamin Franklin, such as his connection to slavery and the racism that was prevalent during his time. We’ll wrestle with how to evaluate Franklin in the present day as we examine his life through both a modern lens and the historical context in which he lived.


  • Who Is Benjamin Franklin?
    • In this first week of the course, we will provide an overview of the course, and introduce the key ideas and themes that will guide our exploration of Benjamin Franklin’s life and legacy. We will take a look at Franklin’s early years in Boston, Philadelphia, and London. Then we will provide a closer examination of what life was like in the British colonies during the 18th Century.
  • Franklin's Professional Career
    • This week we will explore Franklin’s professional career as a printer, scientist, inventor, and politician.
  • Revolution and a New Constitution
    • This week we will explore the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, how Benjamin Franklin became involved in the Colonies' fight for independence, and his role in the drafting of the Constitution.
  • Wrestling with Franklin's Legacy
    • This week we will examine issues from Benjamin Franklin’s life that complicate his legacy, and consider how to evaluate him as a historical figure.

Taught by

Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD


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