The War of 1812 was a turning point in Canadian, American and First Nations histories, says Marshall Bastable, yet, like the recent war in Afghanistan, deciding how to remember and commemorate it is a problem.
“Much attention is given to which side won, but there are other important questions too,” says Dr. Bastable, a sessional instructor in the history department. “How did the various people at the time see the war? Was it a popular war? Was it a civil war? Was it glorious or a war full of terrible suffering and atrocities?”
He suggests five books that will help readers make those judgments and that show how fascinating and important the War of 1812 remains.
- Don’t Give Up the Ship! Myths of the War of 1812, by Donald R. Hickey, aims to dispel many myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings about different aspects of the war.
- Field of Glory: The Battle of Crysler’s Farm, 1813, by Donald Graves, is a fast-paced battlefield narrative of a crucial battle in the war in which the British defeated a much larger American force on the move towards Montreal.
- The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels and Indian Allies, by Alan Taylor, argues that the United States invaded Canada to save itself from bitter internal partisanship on the one hand, and to defend the young and fragile republic from the perceived ambition of imperial Britain to destroy it on the other hand.
- Plunder, Profit and Paroles: A Social History of the War of 1812 in Upper Canada, by George Sheppard, is a ground-breaking revision of the war that shows how deeply divided Upper Canadians were before the war and how very unpopular the war was among them.
- Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership, by R. David Edmunds, takes the reader into the world of First Nations and the failed efforts of Tecumseh to forge a confederation of all the tribes to defend their land and culture against the incursions of the land-hungry and expansionist-minded Americans.