The First American: The Life and Times
of Benjamin Franklin
by H. W. Brands
Published: September 2000
H. W. Brands’ “The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin” was published in 2000 and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Brands is a professor of history and government at the University of Texas and a prolific author. He has written nearly three-dozen books including biographies of Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and Ronald Reagan (each of which I have read and reviewed on this site).
Given its encyclopedic breadth and scholarly bent, “The First American” has largely supplanted Carl Van Doren’s 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning classic as the standard biography of Franklin. With 716 pages of text and studious attention to every major facet of Franklin’s unusually varied and interesting life, Brands’ biography is comprehensive, detailed and incredibly thoughtful.
It is quickly obvious that this distinguished Founding Father is a somewhat elusive biographical subject – a man of many talents who remains enigmatic due to his apparent affinity for…
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