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1812: War with America

Overview

Listen to a short interview with Jon Latimer
Host: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & Crane

In the first complete history of the War of 1812 written from a British perspective, Jon Latimer offers an authoritative and compelling account that places the conflict in its strategic context within the Napoleonic wars. The British viewed the War of 1812 as an ill-fated attempt by the young American republic to annex Canada. For British Canada, ...

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Overview

Listen to a short interview with Jon Latimer
Host: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & Crane

In the first complete history of the War of 1812 written from a British perspective, Jon Latimer offers an authoritative and compelling account that places the conflict in its strategic context within the Napoleonic wars. The British viewed the War of 1812 as an ill-fated attempt by the young American republic to annex Canada. For British Canada, populated by many loyalists who had fled the American Revolution, this was a war for survival. The Americans aimed both to assert their nationhood on the global stage and to expand their territory northward and westward.

Americans would later find in this war many iconic moments in their national story--the bombardment of Fort McHenry (the inspiration for Francis Scott Key's "Star Spangled Banner"); the Battle of Lake Erie; the burning of Washington; the death of Tecumseh; Andrew Jackson's victory at New Orleans--but their war of conquest was ultimately a failure. Even the issues of neutrality and impressment that had triggered the war were not resolved in the peace treaty. For Britain, the war was subsumed under a long conflict to stop Napoleon and to preserve the empire. The one lasting result of the war was in Canada, where the British victory eliminated the threat of American conquest, and set Canadians on the road toward confederation.

Latimer describes events not merely through the eyes of generals, admirals, and politicians but through those of the soldiers, sailors, and ordinary people who were directly affected. Drawing on personal letters, diaries, and memoirs, he crafts an intimate narrative that marches the reader into the heat of battle.

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Editorial Reviews

Literary Review

The history of the war has been written mainly by Americans. Jon Latimer has now provided a full account, mainly from the British standpoint and often using British sources hitherto disregarded by American historians. It is a very credible effort and a substantial volume...The fact is the war of 1812, which Latimer describes so well, taught both Britain and America that war between them was futile and shameful.
— Paul Johnson

Journal of Military History

Latimer promises and delivers a comprehensive investigation of the War of 1812 from a British perspective. What Latimer has provided is a densely detailed and balanced study. He examines the issues from the perspectives of all participants: Americans, Britons, Canadians, and Indians. His approach is broad, weaving political, diplomatic, financial, social, military, and naval activities into a coherent whole. His work is buttressed by the skillful use of the best scholarship and is further supported by extensive personal accounts of the participants which contribute to an already engaging style.

— Richard V. Barbuto

Proceedings

This insightful and comprehensive study of the War of 1812 is particularly valuable because it presents that conflict from the perspective of America’s enemy. Latimer’s British point of view—in which he sees the war as a subset of the war wit Napoleon, rather tha as the separate conflict we often view it as—may not be wholly appreciated by U.S. readers. But this impressively researched and well-written account is a fascinating revelation that serves as an excellent mirror in which to study ourselves.

— Thomas J. Cutler

First Empire

This is a history of the War of 1812 written from the British perspective, using the personal letters, diaries, and memoirs of the generals, admirals, politicians, plus the ordinary soldiers, seamen, and civilians caught up in the conflict. It is a comprehensive and fast-paced narrative that brings the conflict vividly to life, from its causes than emanated from the Napoleonic War in Europe, to the conclusion of peace in 1814...1812: War with America is a comprehensible and very readable account of the conflict. By examining the story from the British perspective, the author places the war within its global context as perceived by Great Britain at the time. As such, it is a very valuable addition to any library on this subject.
— Paul Chamberlain

United States Naval Institute

any books have been written about the War of 1812 in the last few years, but none quite like Jon Latimer’s 1812: War with America. The author of histories of British arms in the Burma and North African campaigns in World War II, Latimer has written the first book on the the War of 1812 from the British perspective since nearly two centuries ago. The result is a thorough and elegantly written account that squarely places the conflict in the context of the Napoleonic Wars...1812: War with America covers all aspects of the conflict, including diplomacy,
finances, atrocities perpetrated by and against the Indians, the naval campaigns at sea and on the Great Lakes, and the land campaigns in the Old Northwest, the South, and Canada...With wit and pathos, [Latimer] has drawn wonderful capsule sketches of the participants, and his staggering research as led to illuminating first-hand accounts of marches and battles from leading generals to lowly sergeants...1812: War with America is a detailed study of a still-obscure was from the British perspective, insightful, written with panache, and backed by massive research.
— Frederick C. Leiner

Literary Review - Paul Johnson
The history of the war has been written mainly by Americans. Jon Latimer has now provided a full account, mainly from the British standpoint and often using British sources hitherto disregarded by American historians. It is a very credible effort and a substantial volume...The fact is the war of 1812, which Latimer describes so well, taught both Britain and America that war between them was futile and shameful.
Toronto Star - Hans Werner
Of all the books I've consumed on the War of 1812, Jon Latimer's 1812: War with America has got to be the best...It is the most comprehensive narrative of the war you're likely to find.
Times Literary Supplement - Stephen Conway
[Latimer] is particularly good at establishing the complicated connections between the negotiations that ended the war in America and the wider European peace settlement.
Journal of Military History - Richard V. Barbuto
Latimer promises and delivers a comprehensive investigation of the War of 1812 from a British perspective. What Latimer has provided is a densely detailed and balanced study. He examines the issues from the perspectives of all participants: Americans, Britons, Canadians, and Indians. His approach is broad, weaving political, diplomatic, financial, social, military, and naval activities into a coherent whole. His work is buttressed by the skillful use of the best scholarship and is further supported by extensive personal accounts of the participants which contribute to an already engaging style.
Proceedings - Thomas J. Cutler
This insightful and comprehensive study of the War of 1812 is particularly valuable because it presents that conflict from the perspective of America’s enemy. Latimer’s British point of view—in which he sees the war as a subset of the war wit Napoleon, rather tha as the separate conflict we often view it as—may not be wholly appreciated by U.S. readers. But this impressively researched and well-written account is a fascinating revelation that serves as an excellent mirror in which to study ourselves.
First Empire - Paul Chamberlain
This is a history of the War of 1812 written from the British perspective, using the personal letters, diaries, and memoirs of the generals, admirals, politicians, plus the ordinary soldiers, seamen, and civilians caught up in the conflict. It is a comprehensive and fast-paced narrative that brings the conflict vividly to life, from its causes than emanated from the Napoleonic War in Europe, to the conclusion of peace in 1814...1812: War with America is a comprehensible and very readable account of the conflict. By examining the story from the British perspective, the author places the war within its global context as perceived by Great Britain at the time. As such, it is a very valuable addition to any library on this subject.
Frederick C. Leiner
Many books have been written about the War of 1812 in the last few years, but none quite like Jon Latimer's 1812: War with America. The author of histories of British arms in the Burma and North African campaigns in World War II, Latimer has written the first book on the the War of 1812 from the British perspective since nearly two centuries ago. The result is a thorough and elegantly written account that squarely places the conflict in the context of the Napoleonic Wars... 1812: War with America covers all aspects of the conflict, including diplomacy, finances, atrocities perpetrated by and against the Indians, the naval campaigns at sea and on the Great Lakes, and the land campaigns in the Old Northwest, the South, and Canada... With wit and pathos, [Latimer] has drawn wonderful capsule sketches of the participants, and his staggering research as led to illuminating first-hand accounts of marches and battles from leading generals to lowly sergeants... 1812: War with America is a detailed study of a still-obscure war from the British perspective, insightful, written with panache, and backed by massive research.
Toronto Star

Of all the books I've consumed on the War of 1812, Jon Latimer's 1812: War with America has got to be the best...It is the most comprehensive narrative of the war you're likely to find.
— Hans Werner

Times Literary Supplement

[Latimer] is particularly good at establishing the complicated connections between the negotiations that ended the war in America and the wider European peace settlement.
— Stephen Conway

Literary Review
The history of the war has been written mainly by Americans. Jon Latimer has now provided a full account, mainly from the British standpoint and often using British sources hitherto disregarded by American historians. It is a very credible effort and a substantial volume...The fact is the war of 1812, which Latimer describes so well, taught both Britain and America that war between them was futile and shameful.
— Paul Johnson
United States Naval Institute
any books have been written about the War of 1812 in the last few years, but none quite like Jon Latimer’s 1812: War with America. The author of histories of British arms in the Burma and North African campaigns in World War II, Latimer has written the first book on the the War of 1812 from the British perspective since nearly two centuries ago. The result is a thorough and elegantly written account that squarely places the conflict in the context of the Napoleonic Wars...1812: War with America covers all aspects of the conflict, including diplomacy,
finances, atrocities perpetrated by and against the Indians, the naval campaigns at sea and on the Great Lakes, and the land campaigns in the Old Northwest, the South, and Canada...With wit and pathos, [Latimer] has drawn wonderful capsule sketches of the participants, and his staggering research as led to illuminating first-hand accounts of marches and battles from leading generals to lowly sergeants...1812: War with America is a detailed study of a still-obscure was from the British perspective, insightful, written with panache, and backed by massive research.
— Frederick C. Leiner
Journal of Military History
Latimer promises and delivers a comprehensive investigation of the War of 1812 from a British perspective. What Latimer has provided is a densely detailed and balanced study. He examines the issues from the perspectives of all participants: Americans, Britons, Canadians, and Indians. His approach is broad, weaving political, diplomatic, financial, social, military, and naval activities into a coherent whole. His work is buttressed by the skillful use of the best scholarship and is further supported by extensive personal accounts of the participants which contribute to an already engaging style.

— Richard V. Barbuto

Proceedings
This insightful and comprehensive study of the War of 1812 is particularly valuable because it presents that conflict from the perspective of America’s enemy. Latimer’s British point of view—in which he sees the war as a subset of the war wit Napoleon, rather tha as the separate conflict we often view it as—may not be wholly appreciated by U.S. readers. But this impressively researched and well-written account is a fascinating revelation that serves as an excellent mirror in which to study ourselves.

— Thomas J. Cutler

First Empire
This is a history of the War of 1812 written from the British perspective, using the personal letters, diaries, and memoirs of the generals, admirals, politicians, plus the ordinary soldiers, seamen, and civilians caught up in the conflict. It is a comprehensive and fast-paced narrative that brings the conflict vividly to life, from its causes than emanated from the Napoleonic War in Europe, to the conclusion of peace in 1814...1812: War with America is a comprehensible and very readable account of the conflict. By examining the story from the British perspective, the author places the war within its global context as perceived by Great Britain at the time. As such, it is a very valuable addition to any library on this subject.
— Paul Chamberlain
Kirkus Reviews
British military historian Latimer (Burma: The Forgotten War, 2004, etc.) provides a blow-by-blow study of this still vaguely understood conflict. Known primarily for inspiring Francis Scott Key to write "The Star Spangled Banner," the War of 1812 was a hugely convoluted affair. The hostility between England and the United States, both still smarting from the War for Independence, was exacerbated by the British perception that the Jefferson and Madison administrations were pro-French, by American land lust and by such maritime grievances as the Royal Navy's impressment of U.S. sailors. Latimer takes the English point of view that America's goal was to overrun Canada. Markets were depressed from 1808 to 1812, and trade was of first importance to the fledgling U.S. government. Jefferson believed the conquest of Canada "a mere matter of marching," first to Montreal and from there to take control of the Great Lakes. With England preoccupied by Bonaparte's conquests in Europe, Canada was left to raise its own means of defense under Colonel Isaac Brock and governor-in-chief George Prevost. The British enlisted the help of Indian leaders such as Tenskwatawa and his brother Tecumseh, while Brock successfully resisted the American invasion at the Battle of Queenston Heights. American privateers took to sea and wreaked havoc on Royal Navy vessels, as Latimer demonstrates in one dizzying chapter. He explores in painstaking detail the campaigns on the lakes and the frontier, the raids and blockades; he looks carefully at the defining battles of Plattsburgh and New Orleans, as well as the burning and ransacking of Washington by the British in 1814. In the end, no one was quite sure what it was allabout, but the net result was to strengthen Canadian nationalism. An exhaustive reassessment of a war neither side really won.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674034778
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/30/2010
  • Pages: 656
  • Sales rank: 625,855
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jon Latimer lectured at the University of Wales, Swansea and served in the Territorial Army. He is the author of 1812: War with America and Alamein (both from Harvard).
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Table of Contents

List of Maps and Illustrations

Note on Place-Names and Currency

Introduction

1. "Canada! Canada! Canada!"

2. Soldiers, Sailors, Immigrants, and Indians

3. Brock—Saviour of Canada

4. Frigates and Privateers

5. Winter on the Lakes

6. Spring on the Frontier

7. Raids and Blockades

8. Tecumseh's Tragedy

9. Crysler's Farm

10. Drummond's Winter Offensive

11. Atlantic and Pacific

12. The Far Northwest

13. The Niagara Frontier

14. Burning the White House

15. Baltimore and Fort Erie

16. Plattsburgh

17. New Orleans

18. The Peace of Christmas Eve

Abbreviations

Notes

Select Bibliography

Index

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2008

    Must Reading for all Americans

    If you think Iraq is a mess, better read this book before you put GWB at the top of your list of Presidential blunderers. As British Tars told many a person as they raided up and down the Chesapeake, burning towns and looting supplies, they were invited by our President Jimmy Madison. The war was declared by Congress at Madison's request with the sole purpose of grabbing land as the other reviewer points out - folks like Madison and a young Henry Clay thought that Canada would be easy pickings with the Brits tied up in Europe. But the Northeast had close ties to both Canada and Britain - indeed - the Brits in Canada were in most part supplied by folks in Maine, Vermont, northern New York, etc. As a result New England actively considered seccession and the election of 1812 was sectionally decided - something that would not be repeated in our history except in 1860. And recall the name - the War of 1812 - happenings a world away deep in Russia that year suddenly had the Madison administration saying 'opps'. I recently read a comment by a leading US Presidential historian that we 'won' the War of 1812. Not naming any names - but even the famous and otherwise well informed amongst us sometimes repeat a myth that has no basis in fact. We won? Really? But Canada remained British, the British remained firm in their claim to the right of impressment...in other words, none of the reasons stated for war by Madison were achieved. The truth is much more closely found in the description of the diminuitive Madison strutting about, looking absurd and preposperous, two dueling pistols stuffed into his belt, as the Brits ran amok through the White House.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2007

    A Detailed Account

    The War of 1812 is presented from the British perspective in this detailed account of the war on all its fronts: land, lake and sea. The author is like a guide through a forest in which he feels compelled to show the reader every tree, bush and rock, hoping perhaps that a panoramic view will somehow emerge. The military history buffs will enjoy the detail in this book, while the general reader may find it heavy going. For the reader who persists,however, the reward is a comprehensive account of the war. Certain myths are debunked, especially on the American side where incompetence and delusion seemed to be the order of the day. There are of course exceptions like Perry and Jackson, but overall the facts show that effective leadership was lacking during this period in American history. The British public saw this war as an opportunistic land-grab by a young republic that needed to be taught a lesson or two. Certainly it came at the worst possible time for the British Empire which was involved in a life and death struggle with Napoleonic France. I was somewhat surprised that the author's meticulous account of all the battles was not carried over to the month by month British Cabinet and Colonial Office decisions. The British public's perspective, gleaned out of the newspapers of the day,are given major emphasis. The careful and detailed presentation of the facts in this book does enhance the reputation of the sometimes maligned Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian side, Sir George Prevost, whom the author shows to have employed for the most part the correct defensive strategy . Along with the decisiveness and bravery of Isaac Brock, Prevost's overall running of the war proved to be crucial in saving Canada at a critical time. Throughout this account, the major theme is simply that without the discipline of the British regulars, Canada would likely have been lost, yet the critical roles played by Tecumseh and the Indian allies as well as the English and French-Canadian militias are not underestimated. The author strives to present a balanced view.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2010

    When historians eschew objectivity.

    Mr. Latimer seemed determined to characterize the U.S leadership as incompetent, base and dishonest, while largely ignoring British arrogance, imperialism. plundering and exploitation of Indians as weapons of terror. He excelled at cherry picking quotations from historic sources that supported his preconceived views of events. If his objective was to make the U.S. look bad, the irony is the U.S. performance was, in fact, so bad that he need not have resorted to the cheap shots and subjectivity that characterize this book. At the time I bought this book, I had purchased a second by Latimer. The other one has been returned unread for a refund.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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