Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The War of 1812: Conflict for a Continent

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The War of 1812: Conflict for a Continent

Article excerpt

J.C.A. Stagg, The War of 1812: Conflict for a Continent (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 216 pp. Paper. £15.99. ISBN 978-0-521-726863.

This general study of the War of 1812 is part of the Cambridge Essential Histories series, designed to introduce students to critical events in history. This explains in part the rather rigid narrative format and relatively short size of the volume. It does not explain its rather narrow focus. J.C.A. Stagg, author of a number of works on the history of the early American Republic and the editor of the papers of President James Madison, sees the War of 1812 'as the most unsatisfying and least well understood of the all of the wars of the United States' (p. ix). Not surprisingly, Stagg's narrative therefore concentrates on why America decided to go to war, how America waged the war and the implications for the United States of the peace settlement that brought the war to an end. There is some justification for this emphasis since it was the United States that declared war and it was the United States government that decided to invade Canada and to expand the boundaries of the United States to include the Gulf Coast and the Florida Peninsula, thus turning disputes with Britain over trade and impressment into a conflict for a continent. Stagg is also playing to his strengths since he has spent much of his life working on the voluminous Madison papers; virtually all of the references to original documents in the text are to American sources. He provides us with a very clear and thoughtful study of the War of 1812 but one that is Washington-centred, indeed at times Madison-centred. …

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