by Jeremy Black
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009. Pp. xvii, 286.
Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $32.95. ISBN: 080614078X
On the eve of the bicentenary of the Anglo-American War of 1812-1815, the prolific Prof. Black (Exeter) applies the global perspective that he has used in such earlier works as Western Warfare, 1775-1882(2001) and Crisis of Empire: Britain and America in the Eighteenth Century (2008) to the "Second War for Independence."
Black fits the war into the larger diplomatic, political, and military events of the times, and is particularly useful in discussing the common military culture of the combatants. He also pays unusual attention to often overlooked aspects of the war, such as the successful British invasion and occupation of much Maine and the Plattsburg Campaign of 1814, arguably the operation that more than any other decided the war, despite being almost totally neglected in most accounts. In addition, Black avoids more traditional interpretations that have prevailed on this side of the ocean which focus, generally erroneously, on militiamen, mounted riflemen, and gallant frigate fights, or, on the far shore, where theories about secret alliances between the U.S. and Napoleon were once commonplace.
Although Black takes a rather elevated perspective, he adequately addresses the principal themes and events of the war, from its causes to its outcomes and consequences. This is likely to be the standard introductory work on the subject for some time to come.