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Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
 
 

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life [Kindle Edition]

Walter Isaacson
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  • Länge: 608 Seiten
  • Sprache: Englisch
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Amazon.de

Benjamin Franklin, writes journalist and biographer Walter Isaacson, was that rare Founding Father who would sooner wink at a passer-by than sit still for a formal portrait. What's more, Isaacson relates in this fluent and entertaining biography, the revolutionary leader represents a political tradition that has been all but forgotten today, one that prizes pragmatism over moralism, religious tolerance over fundamentalist rigidity, and social mobility over class privilege. That broadly democratic sensibility allowed Franklin his contradictions, as Isaacson shows. Though a man of lofty principles, Franklin wasn't shy of using sex to sell the newspapers he edited and published; though far from frivolous, he liked his toys and his mortal pleasures; and though he sometimes gave off a simpleton image, he was a shrewd and even crafty politician. Isaacson doesn't shy from enumerating Franklin’s occasional peccadilloes and shortcomings, in keeping with the iconoclastic nature of our time--none of which, however, stops him from considering Benjamin Franklin "the most accomplished American of his age," and one of the most admirable of any era. And here’s one bit of proof: as a young man, Ben Franklin regularly went without food in order to buy books. His example, as always, is a good one--and this is just the book to buy with the proceeds from the grocery budget. --Gregory McNamee

Amazon.co.uk

"Benjamin Franklin", writes journalist and biographer Walter Isaacson in An American Life, "was that rare Founding Father who would sooner wink at a passer-by than sit still for a formal portrait". "What's more", Isaacson relates in this fluent and entertaining biography, "the revolutionary leader represents a political tradition that has been all but forgotten today, one that prizes pragmatism over moralism, religious tolerance over fundamentalist rigidity, and social mobility over class privilege". That broadly democratic sensibility allowed Franklin his contradictions, as Isaacson shows. Though a man of lofty principles, Franklin wasn't shy of using sex to sell the newspapers he edited and published; though far from frivolous, he liked his toys and his mortal pleasures; and though he sometimes gave off a simpleton image, he was a shrewd and even crafty politician. Isaacson doesn't shy from enumerating Franklin's occasional peccadilloes and shortcomings, in keeping with the iconoclastic nature of our time--none of which, however, stops him from considering Benjamin Franklin "the most accomplished American of his age", and one of the most admirable of any era. And here's one bit of proof: as a young man Ben Franklin regularly went without food in order to buy books. His example, as always, is a good one--and this is just the book to buy with the proceeds from the grocery budget. --Gregory McNamee, Amazon.com

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Wichtiges Buch 15. April 2009
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
"Benjamin Franklin" war für mich lange nur der Name einer Berliner Universitätsklinik. Nachdem ich mich mit Pesönlichkeiten, die am Anfang der USA standen beschäftigt hatte (Jefferson, Washington, Andrew Jackson, Lincoln) wurde ich neugierig auf Franklin, auf den immer wieder Bezug genommen wurde. Nach der Lektüre dieser Biographie ist mir auch klar, warum: er war nicht nur einer der Gründerväter der USA, sondern auch ein Universalgenie, wie es wohl nur das 18. Jahrhundert hervorbringen konnte: Drucker und Verleger, Essayist, Forscher, Politiker und vor allem wohl ein begnadeter Diplomat, ohne den die Verfassung der USA wahrscheinlich nicht zustande gekommen wäre. Sein Leben, seine Überzeugungen und ihr Einfluss auf die Geschichte werden in diesem Buch spannend und überzeugend nachgezeichnet.
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Von Oliver Völckers TOP 500 REZENSENT
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Mit über 500 Seiten ist diese Biografie mehr als ausführlich, doch sie wird den vielfältigen Interessen und Verbindungen Benjamin Franklins gerecht. Franklin (1706-1790) war zuerst Drucker und Publizist, dann Erfinder und Geschäftsmann, schließlich Diplomat und Politiker.

Er definierte als Erster den elektrischen Plus- und Minuspol, erfand nicht nur den Blitzableiter und die Bifokalbrille, sondern auch die sozialen Innovationen der Freiwilligen Feuerwehr, der öffentlichen Bibliotheken und der Wohltätigkeitslotterie. Er interessierte sich für Impfungen und war bei den ersten Heißluft-Ballonflügen in Frankreich dabei.

Seine unermüdlichen Reisen innnerhalb Nordamerikas und nach England und Frankreich brachten ihm die Weitsicht für seine Verhandlungen, die zur Unabhängigkeit der USA führten. Die Architektur des Staatssystems der USA mit seinem Verhältnis zwischen Einzelstaaten und Zentralregierung geht auch auf ihn zurück, sie hat bis heute gehalten. Auch aus heutiger Sicht (EU-Beziehungen) ist diese diplomatische Kunst bemerkenswert.

Das Werk beschreibt nicht nur die Person Benjamin Franklins, sondern schildert auch seine Familienverhältnisse, Freundschaften und Marotten sowie die Entstehung der USA aus Kolonien und Einzelstaaten. Rund ein Drittel des Buchs beschreiben die politischen Verhältnisse in den jungen USA, das dürfte auf anderen Kontinenten nicht so ausführlich interessieren. Der Anfang des Buchs überschneidet sich mit Franklins Autobiografie, wohl unvermeidbar. Franklins im Stil eines Erfolgsratgebers verfasste Autobiografie ist nach wie vor lesenswert.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Benjamin Franklin ist der Gründervater schlecht hin und konnte auf ein bewegtes Leben zurückblicken. Isaacson fasst dieses Leben zu einem interessanten, detailreichen, gut dokumentierten (Referenzliste) Buch zusammen, was sich obendrein flüssig und teils sehr unterhaltsam liest.

Für Fans von historischen Biografien uneingeschränkt empfehlenswert.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 von 5 Sternen  425 Rezensionen
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Discover Franklin and Discover America! 8. November 2003
Von Mark H. Pierce - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Ben Franklin An American Life by Walter Isaacson is a book that should be required reading for all American high school students. I wish I had read this book thirty years ago for this book has transformed my cartoonish, single-dimensioned view of Benjamin Franklin into the multi-dimensional, sometimes controversial, and at all times entertaining historical figure he actually was. And while we view Mr. Franklin through the eyes of Author Walter Isaacson, his opinions are mostly invisible throughout almost 600 pages of text, allowing the reader to draw his own conclusions.
We know Ben Franklin today mostly as one of the founding fathers. But his presence in our lives comes mostly to us through companies that either bear his name or use his likeness in advertising. Generally we think of Franklin as a wise man whose Poor Richards Almanack and thirteen virtues remind us to work hard to improve ourselves. His character is affiliated with savings, with insurance, with investments and a whole host of products, which we buy because we should. Because it would be the right thing to do, if not the most desired thing to do. After reading Isaacson's book, I believe Franklin would get a chuckle out of what we have turned him into.
I don't mean that Isaacson portrays Franklin as a fool. He certainly was not that. Isaacson allows us to see Franklin as so much more than his own Autobiography would have us know of him. Mr. Franklin was a great man, great in science, printing, writing, diplomacy, and democracy. Indeed he was the first great promoter of the middle class in America. He believed in the ability of man to make himself better. Certainly he was a self-made man.
But he was also great in the way he lived his life. He loved to travel. As postmaster, he saw more of America probably than any American of his era. His wanderlust did not stop on this side of the Atlantic. He also visited most of Europe. For that matter he lived most of the second half of his life in Europe.
Perhaps what I enjoyed so much about Isaacson's book was learning what Franklin was not. For example, he was not American, as we think of him, until very close to the actual Revolution. For most of his life, Franklin saw himself as a loyal citizen of the throne of England and worked mightily to avoid the very Independence Day in which Americans remember him so highly. He viewed the problems with England as a problem first with the Proprietors, then with the Legislature, and only finally with the king himself. If it had been possible to maintain America as an expanded part of England, with equal rights and responsibilities, Franklin would have happily supported such a plan.
Also while Franklin was great in many endeavors, he was not a particularly good family man. He married his wife more out of expedience and necessity than out of romantic inclination. He needed a mother for his newborn son, William, and Deborah (not William's mother) was a willing candidate. Franklin lived fifteen of the final 18 years away from Deborah: he lived in Europe and she lived in Philadelphia. While he was always fond of Deborah, he was also fond of other women as well. Isaacson does not paint Franklin so much as an adulterer, though he may have been, but rather as more of a flirt.
Franklin did not have many close relationships either. He was estranged from his son, when William remained loyal to the crown. The fact that William remained loyal was not such a shock when one considers that he was raised in England by Franklin when Franklin considered himself first and foremost a British citizen. While Franklin knew more great men of his generation than anyone, he was not particularly close to any of them. He was closer to the women in his life. This closeness was more of companionship and conversation than anything more lurid.
My intention here is to write a book review, not another biography. But I have to admit that one of the great things that has happened in my life as a result of Isaacson's biography of Franklin's life is that I am more keenly desirous of knowing about the minds and the lives of the founding fathers of our great country. Benjamin Franklin An American Life helps me to understand who we are as Americans, as well as who we aren't. Understanding more of what happened 250 years ago helps me to understand more about today.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Isaacson's biography of Franklin. It is a long read. But near the end I was saddened to have to finally finish it. When I read the chapter of Franklin's death I was saddened as if I had lost someone close to me. I was pleased to turn the page and discovered that Isaacson wrote another entire chapter about Franklin after his death. Many writers and thinkers have commented on Franklin's life throughout American history. Franklin has gone through many recreations throughout the past two centuries and reading what has been written at various times also tells us something of those times and the changes in our country.
I give Benjamin Franklin An American Life by Walter Isaacson my highest recommendation of five stars out of five stars. Read it. Enjoy it. Benefit from it. This book of Franklin's yesterdays can change your tomorrows.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen A Serious and Fully Enjoyable Read 10. Dezember 2003
Von Newt Gingrich - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
If you are looking for a holiday gift that is both serious and enjoyable while capturing much of the spirit of America's founding, you need go no further than "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life."

Isaacson understands something about the American Revolution and the founding fathers that many students of the era never quite get. Each founding father plays an essential role in our becoming an independent republic. Washington is the titan of moral authority on whose integrity our nation rests. Jefferson is the brilliant writer and theorist who helped create modern politics. Madison's systematic hard work created the system of legislative power and constitutional authority that protects our freedoms. Hamilton's understanding of economics and social forces established the capitalist structure, which has made this the wealthiest society in history.
Yet in the deepest sense, these great men were pre-American. They belonged to an earlier, different era where most were landed gentry. Even Hamilton longed for the stability of monarchy.

Only Franklin personified the striving, ambitious, rising system of individual achievement, hard work, thrift and optimism found at the heart of the American spirit. Only Franklin worked his way up in the worlds of business and organized political power in both colonial and national periods. Only Franklin was a world-renowned scientist, founder of corporations, inventor of devices and creator of the American mythos of the common man.

Gordon Wood's "The Radicalism of the American Revolution" caught intellectually this sudden shift from the stable, serious gentry who dominated the founding to the wild, energetic, boisterous Jacksonians who came to define the American ethos.

Franklin is the precursor to the Jacksonians. He personified, literally lived, the American dream and then captured it in an amazingly self aware, fun to read autobiography, which may be the first great book of the American civilization.

Isaacson has captured and portrayed Franklin in all his glory and complexity. This is a book worth giving any of your friends who would better understand America or any foreigner who wonders at our energy, our resilience, our confidence and our success.
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3.0 von 5 Sternen 3 1/2* Informative, but Narrative Lacks Appeal 7. November 2003
Von M. Allen Greenbaum - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
This is a factual, but sometimes unimaginative biography of the famously multi-talented Benjamin Franklin: Statesman, philosopher (indeed, perhaps the founder of American "pragmatism), politician, writer, scientist, diplomat, community organizer, publisher, and self-help pioneer. (Isaakson writes that Franklin was motivated by the belief that "to put forth benefits for the common good is divine"). Franklin played an important role in treaties with England and France, and was an initially reluctant but thereafter adamant proponent of independence from England. His Albany Plan (1754) and Articles of Confederation (1775) were early and eventually influential efforts to balance federal sovereignty and union with states' interests.

The fault of the book, then, is its subject, but how Isaacson writes about him. Its chief fault is the lack of narrative flair: With the notable exception of the first and last chapters, we have a chronological account broken into small sections. Here's one particularly mundane succession: "Constitutional Ideas" (a mere 2 pages)," "Meeting Lord Howe Again (5 pages)," "To France, with Temple and Benny (4 pages)." A more satisfying approach would have traced Franklin's domestic political thought in one larger chapter, but this would violate Isaakson's chronological imperative. At times the book's equally weighted, well-ordered facts yield a pace that is both plodding and boring. The book is best when it manages to integrate larger themes with the strictly biographical details.

Comparing this biography with David McCullough's popular "John Adams," shows that McCullough's book is more fully realized and more "modern," as he interprets themes and implications within broader contexts. Isaacson, at his worst, reads more like a chronicler as he emphasizes neatly compartmentalized facts that tend to obscure larger themes. McCullough simply writes with greater narrative flair: His book contains both precision and drama, and, contrary to this book, it's never a struggle to get through. Although Franklin's pragmatism perhaps limits how analytic Isaakson can be, there is, generally speaking, not enough about the larger context of American intellectual and cultural history (with the exceptions noted above). For example, there is only superficial discussion of whether Franklin's dream of a great middle class has been realized. Moreover, while some critics claim that McCullough is too admiring of Adams, Isaakson somewhat glosses over Franklin's negative personal qualities. Franklin was a great political compromiser, but he appears somewhat rigid in other matters.

Only in the last chapter does Isaacson fully delve into larger themes. He accomplishes this in 17 excellent pages showing American intellectual reaction to him from the time of his contemporaries through the present. He describes the variations in criticism, such as the great esteem for Franklin among rationalists (during the Age of Enlightenment) and American pragmatists, but also describes the Romantics' disdain of bourgeois practicality, and the critiques written by early 20th century intellectuals (e.g., Max Weber wrote "All Franklin's moral attitudes are colored with utilitarianism."). In October 2000, however, critic David Brooks wrote that our "founding Yuppie" would be comfortable in today's middle class, sharing their "optimistic, genial, and kind" values and their secular and religious-based activism. At the conclusion of the book, Isaacson briefly weighs the evidence, and, not surprisingly, praises Franklin's values and his deeply felt "faith in the wisdom of the common citizen." Had the rest of the biography been written with more of the insight and depth shown in this chapter, the book would have been much better.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Breezy Franklin Biography Sure to Fly Kites 3. September 2003
Von Gregory Maier - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Walter Isaacson's new biography of that "love him or leave him" American icon, Benjamin Franklin, is nowhere near as comprehensive or as original as the recent biographies by H.W. Brands and Morgan. Nonetheless, Isaacson's contribution is extremely readable and doesn't stray too deeply into the many rivers that fed Franklin's life. It is, in no small part, the breeziness of Isaacson's prose and his colloquial use of language in the narrative that will surely make this a popular biography.
From the outset, it's clear that Isaacson is a Franklin Fan, though he does a credible job of presenting a balanced history and known facts, from letter excerpts to reproductions of paintings and diagrams. Isaacson's partiality toward Franklin seems to interfere in only a few places -he's almost too ready to excuse or not delve into some of Franklin's more minor (albeit speculative) faults, or explore more mercenary motivations for some things Franklin did. Nonetheless, this biography of Benjamin Franklin is the one I would recommend to the uninitiated and particularly to younger and adolescent readers. Isaacson provides a nice buffet for the casual reader and new discoverer of Benjamin Franklin, if a little heavy on the politics at times.
This book very nicely compliments the towering biography "The First American" by H.W. Brands, a magnificent book that requires somewhat more digestion, but Isaacson shouldn't be dismissed as a lightweight: He should be lauded as a man who has again tried to bring Franklin the man down from the mountain and give us the man rather than the myth. By and large, he succeeds very well indeed. Definitely worth the read, and a great book for "anytime" reading.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen The Soul of America 15. Juli 2003
Von Crack Reviewer - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Benjamin Franklin typified the soul or virtues that most of us Americans hold dear. He rose from being a poor boy to becoming wealthy and distinguished in many fields. He extolled the virtues of the middle class, merchants, and business people over the nobility and titled gentry of Europe. He courageously called for the independence of America when many people still wanted to retain a loyalty to Great Britain. Putting on another hat, he successfully negotiated with first France and than Britain during the Revolutionary War to gain America's independence. Franklin was a successful writer and printer, an inventor, a civic-minded citizen, and a statesman.
Walter Isaacson's book is successful in portraying the wide diversity of Franklin's efforts and achievements. He also delves into Franklin's personal life which included beliefs in Deism as opposed to traditional Christianity. Franklin fathered a child out of wedlock and Isaacson explains how despite this Franklin took responsibility for his actions and did his best to raise this son.
Nevertheless, Isaacson's book is not free from criticism. It is not as interesting or well written as other books about this same period of history. For example, "John Adams" by David McCullough is far more captivating. "American Sphinx" by Joe Ellis is another book that does a good job of keeping the attention of a novice reading about the founding fathers. Finally, "Thomas Jefferson: an Intimate History" by Fawn Brodie is another fascinating account of the men who made America. One gets the idea Isaacson is so determined to cram our heads with details that the book loses some of its allure.
Books like these remind us that the founding fathers were human beings with faults and not deities. Depending on how harsh a critic one is, one could argue Franklin had few friends because he was not loyal to them. One could contend he mistreated his wife leaving her for years by herself in America while he carried on in Great Britain arguing over various colonial issues. One could say he treated his son William, unduly harshly, because he chose to side with the British instead of those in America seeking independence. One could also argue Franklin was a poor team player as a diplomat and couldn't get along with either John Adams or Mr. Lee who were also appointed to negotiate with the French.
However, on the balance it is clear Franklin's virtues far outweighed his faults. This is an authoritative book about one of the most significant Americans who has ever lived.
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