An overlong but well-researched history that shows how the War of 1812 created America’s final separation from England.



Randall (Emeritus, History/Champlain Coll.; Ethan Allen: His Life and Times, 2014, etc.) elaborates on the war that shouldn’t have been fought and that no one won or lost.

The War of 1812 was the culmination of a decadeslong trade war between England and the United States. The British colonies existed only to supply raw materials and purchase British goods. The author begins in 1759, at the end of the Seven Years’ War. With the expulsion of the French from the Americas, settlers were ready to move west only to find England denying them access to lands and the fur trade. Regulations poured out of London under George III, determining what America could and could not trade. This was sufficient cause for a revolution, but the problems continued after independence. While Britain fought Napoleon and his forces in Europe, America determined to remain neutral. The British began taking American ships, claiming they were transporting war materiel and impressing English “deserters.” Randall’s lengthy background information causes the early narrative to plod, but it does help to expose the futility of the war. Britain actually repealed orders for embargoes and ship confiscations, but word didn’t arrive in Washington until a month after war was declared. Neither side was prepared, nor could they afford a war. With the fall of Napoleon, the need for impressing sailors, and the true cause of the war, had ended; America had little naval might to counter Britain’s vast armada. When it came down to the fighting, American military leaders were woefully inadequate. The British union with Tecumseh and his confederacy tilted the scales at first toward the English. Even major successes could not unite the states, especially in the anti-war Northeast. It was only the burning of Washington by the savage George Cockburn that united the country with a will to fight.

An overlong but well-researched history that shows how the War of 1812 created America’s final separation from England.

Pub Date: June 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-11183-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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