Who Started the War of 1812?

Partial image of

Partial image of "The Death of Brock at Queenston Heights", [ca. 1908] by C. W. Jefferys, Government of Ontario Art Collection, 619871


It was a war that nobody really wanted, although both sides ultimately claimed to win. IDEAS host Paul Kennedy considers the causes and the consequences of the War of 1812-14, from both sides, and includes an "Indian" perspective that is all too frequently ignored.

Almost exactly 200 years ago, the relatively new Republic of the United States of America declared war upon the well-established British Empire. All the British colonies in North America were automatically implicated and equally involved in the conflict - even though they wouldn't begin to form the Dominion of Canada for another 55 years. The future "Canada" quickly become the major battlefield of this war, as well as the biggest potential prize.

Over the next three years, IDEAS will periodically commemorate this bicentennial with documentaries about significant battles - like Queenston Heights and Chesapeake Bay.

Today, we'll acknowledge the American Declaration of War, through a series of conversations with three historians: Professor Donald Hickey, an American who has written several books about the war;  a Canadian named Victor Suthren, who was formerly director of the National War Museum in Ottawa; and James Laxer, (also Canadian) from York University in Toronto, who recently published a book that emphasizes the devastating results of this war for native peoples on both sides of the eventual border, as well as the crucial role that native peoples played as the conflict evolved.



Tecumseh and Brock by James Laxer, House of Anansi, 2012.

The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, by Donald Hickey, University of Illinois Press, 2012.

The War of 1812, by Victor Suthren, McLelland and Stewart, 2001.

Related Websites

Commemorating the Two Hundreth Anniversary of the War of 1812 - Government of Ontario Archives

The War of 1812 - Government of Canada

The Canadian War Museum - 1812 Exhibit

The War of 1812 - Collection of articles and essays

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