Monday, February 11, 2013

Featured Book: The Political Trial of Benjamin Franklin by Kenneth Lawing Penegar

About the book:

Benjamin Franklin, it seems, was a reluctant revolutionary. In tracing the course of his political transformation, this book will explore the social and political understandings and misunderstandings that both sustained and divided Britain and its colonies in North America. At the center of the story is Benjamin Franklin's decision in late 1772 to use a cache of personal letters that had fallen in his lap in London for revelation in Massachusetts - essentially a Wikileaks for 1772 - and the consequences of that decision for himself and for the cause of an amicable settlement of differences between the colonies and the British government.

The personal side of Franklin's life in London is explored fully enough for the reader to appreciate both his strong attachment to the place and the inevitable sense of loss from which he reluctantly retreated in the spring of 1775 upon his departure from Britain and return to Philadelphia.

In the tradition of narrative history, this book combines two main stories, each one complementing the other. Woven into the chronological and social history is a tale with an air of genuine suspense and mystery about it, revolving around Franklin's publication of private correspondence with political ramifications. The "leak" was a shock to all, and had consequences for the prospect of avoiding a deeper rift with Britain, a cause Franklin pursued with increasing frustration in the last few years before the American Revolution.

There are notable editorial innovations in the book. The appendices contain full transcripts of significant documents of the time (a first) as well as a thorough exploration of the mystery over the identity of Franklin's source for the Hutchinson letters. A practical 'time-line' is included showing major correlative events. This work will fill a partial void in the late colonial period in American history and will deepen our understanding of the role of the American with the most extensive experience of British political and cultural sensibilities of the time.

About the author:

In his distinguished career as a law professor and dean Kenneth Lawing Penegar’s principal areas of teaching and scholarship have been professional ethics, criminal law and jurisprudence. He has published major length articles in a variety of law reviews and journals; some of these have been reprinted as chapters of books on criminal law and ethics.Dr. Penegar served on the faculties of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, the University of Tennessee (Dean for fifteen years), and Southern Methodist University (Dallas), where he holds emeritus status. Penegar received his education from the universities of North Carolina (Chapel Hill); Yale; and London (London School of Economics & Political Science).He researched The Political Trial of Benjamin Franklin during a yearlong residence in Britain using collections of documents and papers in libraries and archives including the British Library, London.


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