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The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812
     

The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812

5.0 2
by Troy Bickham
 

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In early 1815, Secretary of State James Monroe reviewed the treaty with Britain that would end the War of 1812. The United States Navy was blockaded in port; much of the army had not been paid for nearly a year; the capital had been burned. The treaty offered an unexpected escape from disaster. Yet it incensed Monroe, for the name of Great Britain and its

Overview


In early 1815, Secretary of State James Monroe reviewed the treaty with Britain that would end the War of 1812. The United States Navy was blockaded in port; much of the army had not been paid for nearly a year; the capital had been burned. The treaty offered an unexpected escape from disaster. Yet it incensed Monroe, for the name of Great Britain and its negotiators consistently appeared before those of the United States. "The United States have acquired a certain rank amongst nations, which is due to their population and political importance," he brazenly scolded the British diplomat who conveyed the treaty, "and they do not stand in the same situation as at former periods."

Monroe had a point, writes Troy Bickham. In The Weight of Vengeance, Bickham provides a provocative new account of America's forgotten war, underscoring its significance for both sides by placing it in global context. The Napoleonic Wars profoundly disrupted the global order, from India to Haiti to New Orleans. Spain's power slipped, allowing the United States to target the Floridas; the Haitian slave revolt contributed to the Louisiana Purchase; fears that Britain would ally with Tecumseh and disrupt the American northwest led to a pre-emptive strike on his people in 1811. This shifting balance of power provided the United States with the opportunity to challenge Britain's dominance of the Atlantic world. And it was an important conflict for Britain as well. Powerful elements in the British Empire so feared the rise of its former colonies that the British government sought to use the War of 1812 to curtail America's increasing maritime power and its aggressive territorial expansion. And by late 1814, Britain had more men under arms in North America than it had in the Peninsular War against Napoleon, with the war with America costing about as much as its huge subsidies to European allies.

Troy Bickham has given us an authoritative, lucidly written global account that transforms our understanding of this pivotal war.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A well-researched work, Bickham's book places the conflict in a transatlantic framework, comparing and contrasting British and American motivations, attitudes, and perceptions." --Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

"Bickham accomplishes a lot in this volume...Well written and occasionally provocative. Highly recommended." --CHOICE

"A provocative, behind-the-scenes look at the machinations of empires, this excellent history will appeal to all interested readers." --Library Journal

"[Bickham] argues rightly that the war involved a commercial struggle within the Atlantic world as well as a struggle to dominate North America. Behind the ostensible casus belli - e.g., the impressment of sailors from American ships by the Royal Navy - was a clash between America's expansion and Britain's efforts to avenge an earlier defeat by making a former colony a client state." --The Wall Street Journal

"Authoritative, up-to-date, and readable... Modern scholarship at its very best." --The Weekly Standard

"Densely-researched and fascinating ... If the American Revolution was fought for a national existence, the War of 1812 was fought for a national validity - the "certain rank" James Monroe invoked in dealings with the fractious British diplomats who sought to codify the new nation as a permanent junior partner on the world stage. The fight for that rank was carried out far more importantly in the press of the day than on the limited battlefields of the war itself, and Bickham, by exploring that fight, has made an invaluable contribution to our understanding of Mr. Madison's War." --Open Letters Monthly

"Through eight chapters of lively narrative that alternate between the perspectives of Britain and those of the United States, Bickham stays true to his central premise that the United States fought the War of 1812 to force Britain to respect American national sovereignty, while the British fought to maintain the right to ignore it . Bickham spins a good yarn." --Nicole Eustace, Journal of American History

"Well-researched... Bickham's deft juggling of imperial and national complexities is certain to make The Weight of Vengeance an important contribution to the historiography of the War of 1812." --Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

"Bickham's account of the peace negotiations [is] the best I have read." --American Historical Review

"An interesting and well-written book that throws light on one of the most complex wars in America's history, at once the last stage of the rejection of British power and the first major war of American imperialism." --Jeremy Black, author of The War of 1812

"The War of 1812 still raises patriotic hackles in some quarters today, far more so that the American Revolutionary conflict. For a long time a cool, authoritative, mid-Atlantic voice has been needed, addressing far wider issues than are considered by the many existing naval and military studies. Troy Bickham has provided this with a thorough analysis of the motivations and capabilities of America, Britain and Canada. Here is the full story behind the decisions and events, from the pre-war period when all three combatants underestimated each others' resolve, to the peace signed at Ghent in 1814 between two politically- fragile governments. This astute and nuanced book will now be central to our understanding of this conflict." --Roger Knight, University of Greenwich

"The War of 1812, after decades of neglect, is again interesting historians. Yet Troy Bickham, by placing the war in a global context and showing that it mattered for Britain as well as Canada and the United States, brings fresh perspectives to the subject. His new insights, and his clear and accessible prose, make this an important contribution to a growing literature on an important war." --Stephen Conway, author of Britain, Ireland, and Continental Europe in the Eighteenth Century: Similarities, Connections, Identities

"Troy Bickham's splendidly balanced account of the War of 1812 explores how the British as well as the Americans allowed partisan politics and jingoistic emotion to spark a war that need not have occurred." --T.H. Breen, Nicholas Chabraja Center for Historical Studies, Northwestern University

"Engagingly written and full of new information, Troy Bickham's The Weight of Vengeance fittingly commemorates the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. Bickham's account, highly original yet judicious, shows how military strategy reflected the public opinion of the combatants: U.S., Canadian, and British." --Daniel Walker Howe, author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

"As [Bickham's] analysis proceeds, a decisive view of the war becomes increasingly clear -- and increasingly persuasive ... The conflict receives a worthy chronicle here that will clarify its meaning for anyone who cares to understand it." --History News Network

"In The Weight of Vengeance, Troy Bickham counters that conventional wisdom, arguing that the war "was not militarily, strategically, or emotionally a peripheral event for Britain and its empire." --Foreign Affairs

"Based on extensive investigation of primary sources, this book contains pensive theses and provides much context about the salient trans-Atlantic facets of the forgotten War of 1812...This elegantly written book will become a classic in the field." --R. William Weisberger, Pennsylvania History

Library Journal
This is not another campaign history of the War of 1812. There's not a lot of detail about the war's land and naval actions, although they are discussed and their significance noted. Bickham (history, Texas A&M Univ.) takes a different approach, presenting an unapologetic picture of both belligerents, their respective negative attitudes toward each other, and their inexorable march to conflict. In alternating chapters, he presents each country's case for war, the complications involved in declaring war, the offensives, the opposition to the war, the end of the war, and the difficulty in establishing peace. Finally, he presents an excellent discussion of who, if anyone, won the War of 1812. Of especial interest are the two chapters in which Bickham covers the opposition to the war, which was more prevalent in both countries than has been admitted in most previous studies. VERDICT A provocative, behind-the-scenes look at the machinations of empires, this excellent history will appeal to all interested readers, especially those with some knowledge of the time period.—David Lee Poremba, Keiser Univ. Lib., Orlando, FL

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780190217815
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
01/01/2017
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
344
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Troy Bickham is a Professor of History at Texas A&M University. He is the author of Making Headlines: The American Revolution as Seen Through the British Press and Savages within the Empire.

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The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Historylover30 More than 1 year ago
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked this up at the bookstore--maybe too academic or another rambling collection of battle narratives. But this was fantastic--detailed analysis without high-handed prose or organization. The book takes a complete look at the war, as so few accounts of war do. It looks at battles to be sure but also the home front and the decisions being made in the back rooms of politics. I especially liked the more world view it takes by looking at what the war meant for Native Americans, Canada and the British Empire. I had no idea how important the U.S. was to the British Caribbean slave plantations and how important Britain's own imperial objectives were in bringing the war about and controlling it once it started. To read other accounts you would think Britain couldn't have cared less. In other words, a great all around read for anyone interested in the conflict or that period in U.S. history or understanding how the U.S. developed the way it did. Lots of lessons for the present too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent and worth reading.