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The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon

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The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon
By Jeremy Black. Volume 21 in the Campaigns and Commanders Series (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman: 2009. Pg. 288. 1 B & W Illustration, 3 Maps) ISBN: 978-0-8061-4078-0.

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - November 2, 2009

The War of 1812 is one of America's forgotten wars. Although it was instrumental in shaping America's political development and shaped its international relationships, the most that many people know about this conflict, if anything at all, come from a few songs about the Battle of New Orleans, and some elementary school accounts of the burning of the Capitol and the White House by British forces. Despite its being overlooked or give short shrift in many classrooms, the War of 1812 (which lasted until 1815) was in reality a major turning point in American history and deserves greater treatment in high school and general survey college courses.

In The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon, the eminent historian and writer, Jeremy Black, provides a concise and readable overview of the War of 1812, and its long term implications that it held for not only American and British history, but also the role that it played in the greater Napoleonic War. Throughout, Black takes a wide path, examining this conflict from an international perspective, rather than simply looking at it from an American or British viewpoint. He looks at not only its military and diplomatic impact, but also its economic, social, and its long term political impact. Writing from an international perspective is a unique viewpoint in relationship to this war, and Black also looks at alternative scenarios, such as what the British response might have been had the American's conquered Canada, and the numerous problems that the Americans would have faced not only in holding the country, but also in dealing with the varied factions that lived there, from Loyalist that fled the American colonies after the revolution to the Québécois.

From beginning to end, I found The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon to be a fascinating and informative book to read. This is an area of history to which I had a general knowledge, but nothing as detailed as Black presented in this book. Reading this book has ignited in me an interest in this subject, one that I intend to pursue in greater detail. I have already found Black's suggestions for further readings to be of great value, and I'm sure that if you are as intrigued with subject as I am, you will find these suggestions, along with his end notes, a great help in directing your studies into this fascinating and often overlooked period in American and British history.

Related Reviews:

Napoleon and the British, by Stuart Semmel.
An intriguing social history of Britain during the Napoleonic era that examines the public perceptions of Napoleon and how he influenced Britain's political, religious, and social development.

A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States, by Timothy J. Henderson.
An in-depth and fascinating analysis of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, the events leading up to it, and its long-term repercussions. The book is written primarily from a Mexican viewpoint.

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