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Guide to Sources for Research into the History of the War of 1812



The Challenge: Britain Against America in the Naval War of 1812 : Andrew Lambert (London : Faber and Faber, 2012)

Review from the Northern Mariner (vol. XXII, no. 2): "[Lambert] starts with an economic and political overview of the years leading up to 1812[.] [...] His naval narrative is refreshingly concise and complete. [...] He concludes [...] with intriguing insight into the literature and art of the nascent United States in the post-1812 era, examining the reasons why naval defeat turned to lasting psychological victory. [...] The Challenge is a necessary addition to the libraries of all serious students of the War of 1812. [...] [It] will please historians for its depth and remain a major addition to the historiography of 1812." Full review here.



Select British documents of the Canadian War of 1812 : edited with an introduction by William Wood in the series: Publications of the Champlain Society ; vols. 13-15, 17. (Toronto : The Champlain Society, 1920-28)

Published as three volumes in four: Vol. 1: Introduction; Narrative documents, group 1, preparation, group 2, Brock 1812; -- Vol. 2: Narrative documents (cont.) groups 3and 4, ops. in West; group 5, Lake Ontario spring 1813; group 6, frontiers summer 1813; group 7, Lake Erie 1813; group 8 Montreal frontier 1813; group 9, Niagara frontier 1813; -- Vol 3, Part 1: Narrative documents (cont.) group 10, ops. on the frontiers 1814; group 11, British counter-invasion 1814; group 12, end of the war; -- Vol 3, Part 2: Appendix of miscellaneous documents; index to all volumes.



The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebeld, and Indian Allies : Alan Taylor (New York : Knopf, 2010)

Assesses the War of 1812 in light of the legacy of the American Revolution, citing the agendas of key contributors while offering insight into the war's role in shaping the United States and Canada.



In the Midst of Alarms: The Untold Story of Women and the War of 1812 : Dianne Graves (Montreal : Robin Brass, 2007)

From the foreword: "Warfar has always been a pre-eminently male activity.  Hence, those writing the history of wars have usually focused on the role of men, leaving women in the shadows of the backdrop. [...] It is only in the last half century that women have broken out of their traditional roles, and that, not coincidentally, historians have started investigating their role in wars.  Although we know a lot more than we once did about that role in some wars, the War of 1812 remains terra incognita.  That is why Dianne Graves's book is so interesting and important."



For Honour's Sake: The War of 1812 and the Brokering of an Uneasy Peace : Mark Zuehlke (Toronto : Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2006)

From the dust jacket: "In the Canadian imagination, the War of 1812 looms large. It was a war in which British and Indian troops prevailed in almost all of the battles, in which the Americans were unable to hold any of the land they fought for, in which a young woman named Laura Secord raced over the Niagara peninsula to warn of American plans for attack (though how she knew has never been discovered), and in which Canadian troops burned down the White House. Competing American claims insist to this day that, in fact, it was they who were triumphant. But where does the truth lie?"



The Lion and the Union: The Anglo-American War, 1812-1815 : Kate Caffrey (London : Andre Deutsch, 1978)

From the foreword: "The Anglo-American War of 1812 was obscured throughout by the great conflict in Europe.  It was indecisive, scattered, full of mistakes, and basically unsatisfactory.  Soldiers and sailors killed in action were 1,877 United States, 3,433 British.  The war need never have been fought at all.  Yet even so admittedly peculiar a conflict gave something to each side: to America, a new self-awareness and confidence; to Britain, reluctant respect for the former rebel colonies."



The Causes of the War of 1812 : Reginald Horsman (Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978)

From the dust jacket: "This volume offers the first analysis of the causes of the war from both the British and American points of view, showing clearly that, contrary to the popular misconception, the war's basic causes are to be found not in America but in Europe.  For unless one accepts the view that America committed an act of pure aggression in 1812, one must turn to the motives underlying British policy to determine why America felt it had to fight."



A History of the War Between Great Britain and the United States of America During the Years 1812, 1813, 1814 : Gilbert Auchinleck (London : Arms and Armour Press, 1972)

From the introduction: "Gilbert Auchinleck's serial account for the magazine had been written in popular terms and was infused with some of the feelings of those who had seen the war at first hand.  The author did, however, take pains to incorporate a good deal of the printed and manuscript sources available to him, all of which were fully acknowledged and organized on a chronological basis.  The reader is taken from the early naval engagements through to the final blockade of the United States' forces on the Great Lakes, and to the terms of the Ghent Treaty which settled the conflict in 1815."



British Generals in the War of 1812: High Command in the Canadas : Wesley B. Turner (Montreal : McGill-Queen's University Press, 1999)

From the dust jacket: "Wesley Turner answers questions about the quality of the five British generals serving in the British North American colonies during the War of 1812, particularly with respect to Isaac Brock, the best known of the generals. He argues that Brock's charge up Queenston Heights – the basis for his heroic stature – was brave but hardly a demonstration of competent leadership."



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