Benjamin Franklin Papers

Claire Arcenas and Caroline Winterer

Our project explores the nature of Benjamin Franklin’s correspondence network during the “London Decades” (1757-1775)— some of the most formative years in Franklin’s life, when he spent much of his time away from Philadelphia in and around London.

Like other Mapping the Republic of Letters projects, ours has included numerous phases. One of the first issues we confronted as early as 2008 was the need to limit our scope in terms of the volume of letters we dealt with at one time. After a few years of careful and copious data transcription of the over 15,000 letters that Benjamin Franklin either wrote or received over the course of his life, the entirety of Franklin’s correspondence proved too large a mapping endeavor for our first go at it. In 2011, we stepped back to examine our goals for converting Franklin’s correspondence into “data” (the easily computer-digested dates, correspondents, locations of letters sent and received). What questions did we hope to answer by compiling such “data” from Franklin’s letters? Did such questions lend themselves to an examination of a smaller set of letters?

After much deliberation, the Franklin team decided to limit our focus—for the time being—to the years between 1757 and 1775. During these “London Decades” as we term them, Franklin conducted important business of the American colonies abroad, developed a robust international reputation, and met many leading intellectual luminaries of his day, including David Hume and Lord Kames. In the years since we began the intensive processing of Franklin’s correspondence between 1757 and 1775, we have formulated new and important questions about the changing nature of Franklin’s correspondence network. These questions lend themselves to the deeper and more precise nature of our investigation now structured around the nearly two decades Franklin spent abroad.

Project Index

Note: Each item below should be cited separately. Follow the link to each page for citation information. The data are available for download from the Stanford Digital Repository. The data schema and interactive visualizations are viewable at this site.

Article

Visualizations

Schema

Data

Data for the Correspondence Network of Benjamin Franklin During the London Years: Letters, People, Places
(This link will take you to the Stanford Digital Repository)

Claire Arcenas and Caroline Winterer , 2016
Three tables of data offered as TSV and XLSX files for the 3443 documents, 774 individuals or groups, and 339 places associated with the correspondence network of Benjamin Franklin during the London Years (1757-1775). For a rationale and explanation, please see the accompanying data schema."

Mapping the Republic of Letters Project

Mapping the Republic of Letters has been an exciting collaboration for us, as well as an ongoing experiment in how to conduct collaborative, interactive historical research in a digital age. To learn more about that project, visit republicofletters.stanford.edu.