Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Printer and the Preacher by Randy Petersen


The Printer and the Preacher: Ben Franklin, George Whitefield, and the Surprising Friendship that Invented America by Randy Petersen examines the somewhat unlikely friendship that spanned decades of each man's life. Using historical sources, including letters written between the men, Petersen lays out the trajectory of each man's life and how the overlap of their lives helped shape American history.

Petersen gives a thumbnail sketch of each man's life before their first interaction, but the majority of the book is spent discussing how Whitefield and Franklin influenced and helped one another. The way each life is presented, Petersen is trying to get the reader to see many parallels between them. He points out similarities in social standing, success, and thought, especially about engaging with and bettering one's community. The main difference was that Franklin thought the solution to all of society's woes was in civic engagement, and Whitefield thought the solution was Jesus.

The similarities Petersen points out are interesting, though some of them seem like somewhat of a stretch. Whitefield and Franklin did seem to have a symbiotic relationship that made both of them more successful than they could have been alone. It's clear they had a deep respect and affection for one another, though their opinions on many matters varied, sometimes widely. It's an overstatement to claim their friendship "invented America," but it does seem to have been an important relationship that is often overlooked when examining America's history.

The Printer and the Preacher is an interesting book about the friendship of two historically significant men. The pace is somewhat slow, and some of the connections feel forced. There is a fair amount of repetition and conjecture, though Petersen is good about pointing out what are just his thoughts. Overall, anyone who is a fan of early American history or of the first Great Awakening will find this an interesting, if not quite engaging, read. 

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookLook book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255