Most Americans don’t know much about the War of 1812, other than the date of course (the unique obviousness of which is a source of many jokes in history class and pop culture). That’s partly why so few people noticed that a few days ago, on February 18, was the 200th anniversary of the conflict’s end.
What little most people learn is that it was a pretty pointless conflict that didn’t change much, though it does have the distinction of being the only conflict in which the independent United States was invaded and occupied. Oh, and the White House, along with much of the capital, was burned to the ground.
But our neighbors to the north have a very different perspective. The war remains a significant event in their nation’s history, to the extent that it is sometimes considered akin to a war of independence – the creator of a distinct Canadian identity. That’s right – we had fought a war with Canada, albeit before it was a full country.
Nowadays, it’s odd to imagine our two nations having anything more than a diplomatic spat (if even that), much less a full-blown war – aside from the lighthearted jabs against each other’s culture. For as long as anyone in North America can remember, relations between Canada and the US have always been markedly peaceful and productive – for example, we’re one another’s most important trading partners.
But each country’s early history was tenuous. Today’s famously open border wasn’t so welcoming, and the war of 1812 was in many ways a continuation of hostilities from the Revolutionary War. Some historians consider the war to have been a test of American independence too, given how close we came to defeat. The conflict was a lot more significant than most people realize.
In any case, there’s a great article from The Walrus, a Canadian general interest publication, that provides an insightful perspective on the war from the other side of the border. It’s a pretty long read, and a bit nationalistic, but it’s well worth it, whether you’re a history buff or someone who wants to understand another point of view (to me, both are one in the same).
Like most people, Canadians are hardly monolithic in their views. I welcome any readers from the Great White North to share their own viewpoint (not to the exclusion of non-Canadians of course).