In the book 1812: The War that Forged a Nation W.R. Borneman proposes readers an exiting and vivid description of the war of 1812 which led to consolidation of the nation and ‘forged America’s national identity.’ Borneman analyzes the major events of the war and discusses their impact on the nation, its freedom and self-determination. Throughout the book, he underlines that American identity manifested in one’s self-concept, and helped to interpret social reality. The book consists of three chapters (books) which cover events from 1800 to 1815 (-1816).
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The book proposes a unique vision and interpretation of events which shaped American nation and its identity. In contrast to many other historians, Borneman omits detailed descriptions of battles and military campaigns but emphasizes social and economic factors, causes and consequences of military decisions and tactics. Borneman emphasizes that the most persistently baffling issue between Britain and America was impressment, and it was difficult to resolve because it touched deeply the sovereignty of both nations. The advantage of the book is that it covers many historical events and parallels military campaigns and social situation in Europe and America. Borneman writes that the war in Europe had enhanced America’s position as a neutral carrier. But what added to American anger were the abuses that so often accompanied British practices (economic and trade relations).
The War of 1812 had a significance reaching far beyond the terms of the treaty that concluded it. To Great Britain it was a minor affair which only served to divert some of her resources from the major conflict she was waging with France. To the United States it was much more. America had entered it to defend its vital interests, uphold its national honor, and assert her newly won independence. Borneman describes the presidential campaign and political situation of 1800 writing: “in the presidential election of 1800, there were as yet no strictly organized political tickets. The Constitution merely ordained that the person receiving the highest number of electoral votes be declared a president”. This description shows that America had not had strict laws and legal rules which influenced its unity and peace. Borneman underlines that for America the war was the harshest test to which the nation could be put. And the United States found it doubly hazardous in 1812, for it had entered the conflict with a divided Congress and a confused citizenry. Yet despite the uncertainty that plagued the nation, it was able to meet the challenge with honor. And so the United States emerged from the war with a new sense of purpose an identity. Another advantage of the book is that it includes maps which help to follow description of events and major battle. It is possible to criticize the book for subjectivity and lack of details, but it was the main purpose of the author to create a vivid and compressive narration interesting to diverse target audience. The description involves vivid personal portraits of the main war generals and leaders (e.g. Winfield Scott and James Madison). Borneman shows that the nation was better able to face the future. There were still foreign problems to deal with, but the actions that the United States had taken in 1812 made their resolution easier. Europe now knew that America would fight to protect her interests.
I would recommend this book to everyone interested in American history and civil wars. Borneman creates a comprehensive narration which describes the main events of the was of 1812 and their impact on the nation. As the most important, he proposes a new and ‘interesting’ history of the war, its tactics and strategies often omitted by other authors.
Borneman, W.R. 1812: The War That Forged a Nation. HarperCollins, 2004.