Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Civil War of 1812 by Alan Taylor

I am reading Alan Taylor's recent book on the war of 1812, and it is excellent. It is a finely written narrative history that does an excellent job of describing people and situations, and also very good as an analytical treatment of the war. One of the characteristic features of this book is that it focuses on Upper Canada, much my surprise. It is in Upper Canada, today's Ontario, that Taylor sees many of conflicts of the early 19 century coming together in an interesting mixture. For instance, one conflict was between the concept of republic and its associated idea of citizen, and the concept of empire associated with the idea of the subject. Taylor: "We imagine that the revolution effected a clean break between Americans and Britons as distinct peoples. In fact, the republic and the empire competed for the allegiance of the peoples in North America – native, settler, and immigrant." Taylor is amazingly fair in showing the virtues and drawbacks of both systems of thought as they worked themselves out in North America.

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