Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review - 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism

I can't believe it has been two months since my last blog post. However, considering how busy the last two months have been, I shouldn't be so surprised. My apologies for the long absence. So to start off the new year, I'd like to offer a book review.

I just finished reading Nicole Eustace's 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism. This book offers a fresh take on the War of 1812 and approaches the war from a number of perspectives. This is not a military history; far from it, this book explores early 19th century American ideas about patriotism, duty, and love (love of family, country, etc.). Eustace points out how romantic and familial love were equated with patriotism and love of country. Prowar forces within the United States attempted in various ways to juxtapose their righteous view of America's war aims with the less-than-virtuous British and their Native American (and in some cases, black) allies.

In the end, Americans had to face many contradictions, such as how a nation that espoused liberty still endorsed the institution of slavery, and how their claims to defending their rights to life, liberty, and property rang hollow against their real war aims of territorial expansion and denying the Native American population those same rights. While this book is not necessarily pro-British, it certainly points out weaknesses in American arguments and claims as to what their war aims really were. In the end, Eustace sums up the importance, usually forgotten or swept aside, of this war in real terms. She points out that the legacy of this war is one of vast territorial expansion and Indian removal that persisted until well after the next three American Wars (the Mexican War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War).

If you want to read a solid social and intellectual history of the War of 1812 without getting bogged down in the military intricacies of the conflict this is the book for you. It is very well written and well argued, and will make you think of the War of 1812 in a different light

No comments: