The best recent books on the War of 1812

Troy Bickham Author Of The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812
By Troy Bickham

The Books I Picked & Why

The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies

By Alan Taylor

The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies

Why this book?

The bicentennial of the War of 1812 injected new life into a largely sidelined subject in early American history, drawing a variety of contributions from a range of historians. The Civil War of 1812 is the contribution of one of the leading historians of early America. Beautifully written, as are all of Taylor’s books, this book focuses primarily on the political, social, and cultural aspects of the conflict that transpired along the United States-Canadian borderlands.  In so doing, he gives equal attention to divisions the war caused in Canadian, Native American, and U.S. communities.


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Perilous Fight: America's Intrepid War with Britain on the High Seas, 1812-1815

By Stephen Budiansky

Perilous Fight: America's Intrepid War with Britain on the High Seas, 1812-1815

Why this book?

While the outcome of the naval war was a foregone conclusion, the United States Navy and a swarm of privateers punched well above their weight, humiliating the world’s preeminent navy early in the conflict and boosting American national morale. There are a number of excellent books on the naval history of the conflict, but, carefully researched and accessibly written, Perilous Fight is my favorite telling of this critical aspect of the War of 1812.


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The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon

By Jeremy Black

The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon

Why this book?

While the Napoleonic Wars affected all aspects of life in Britain, the complete marginalization of the War of 1812 in British history is more a reflection of British historians’ interests than the experiences of people at the time. Jeremy Black, the most prolific British historian of his generation, does much to correct that oversight in his War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon. 


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The Slaves' Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812

By Gene Allen Smith

The Slaves' Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812

Why this book?

Gene Allen Smith’s Slaves’ Gamble is one of my favorite books on the War of 1812 primarily for two reasons. First, he shifts the focus to the largely overshadowed South. Second, he brings enslaved Africans into the wider discussion about the conflict and its consequences.  Aside from Native Americans, no group suffered more as in consequence of the War of 1812’s outcomes: U.S. hegemony over North America and with it the assured expansion of the slave-holding republic.


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When Britain Burned the White House: The 1814 Invasion of Washington

By Peter Snow

When Britain Burned the White House: The 1814 Invasion of Washington

Why this book?

Peter Snow is amongst the greatest historical storytellers, able to produce driving narratives that bring characters both great and small to life and make sense of complex events. This book is the most comprehensive and riveting account of one of the most memorable, yet misunderstood, events of the War of 1812.


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