The War of 1812: Redefining North America

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Duration 01:07:27

University of Virginia

Alan Taylor holds the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Chair in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia. Professor Taylor previously taught at the College of William and Mary, Boston University, and the University of California at Davis, and served as the Harmsworth Professor at Queens College, Oxford University. The author of ten books, his most recent, American Republics: A Continental History of the United States, 1783-1850, won the Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize in American History. Two of his previous titles — William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early Republic (1995), and The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia (2013) — both won the Pulitzer Prize for American History.



After the revolution, the British empire and the American republic remained uneasy neighbors in North America. In addition to spawning the republic, the revolution consolidated British control over Canada, which offered a haven for 40,000 American Loyalists expelled by the Patriot victory. Loyalists did not believe that the British Empire had permanently lost the fight against the republican revolution.  Neither Britons nor Americans thought that their rival political systems could coexist for long in a shared continent. Britons predicted that the republic inevitably would collapse into anarchy and civil war. With equal conviction, Americans insisted that nature destined their republic to dominate the continent. Eventually, they predicted, the Canadians would join the United States by rejecting the artificial rule of a foreign empire. Created by the revolution, the border between the republic and the empire seemed tenuous and temporary: destined to shift either north or south as one or the other collapsed.  By invading Canada in 1812, the governing Republicans in the U.S. hoped to fend off a menacing convergence of internal and external enemies.


Recommended Reading:

1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism, by Nicole Eustace

The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, by Donald R. Hickey

The Challenge: America, Britain, and the War of 1812, by Andrew Lambert

The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies, by Alan Taylor

The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, by Alan Taylor


Discussion Questions:

(1) What caused the United States to declare war on Britain in 1812?

(2) What strategy did the U.S. adopt to win the war?  What were the flaws in that strategy?

(3) Why did the U.S. invasion of Canada fail?

(4) How did the War of 1812 change the U.S.?  Change Canada?




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Mac Vineyard

Redefining North America

Thank you for the excellent presentation.

2 years ago
barbara ann.fields

An important historical omission

The use and abuse of Native Americans and Africa slaves was more significant than has been portrayed in our history books.

1 year ago
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