Faces of 1812

Painting in colour of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock

This year, Canada is commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, a unique opportunity for all Canadians to take pride in our traditions, and our shared history. Therefore, Library and Archives Canada has developed the exhibition, Faces of 1812, which features a number of collection items related to the war. In this episode, Professor Michael Eamon joins us to discuss his work as curator of the exhibition, some of the works included, how it came about and why the War of 1812 is significant to all Canadians.

Duration: 36:36

File size: 30.8 MB Download MP3

Publish Date: October 30, 2012

  • Transcript of podcast episode 5
    Angèle Alain: Welcome to Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage. I’m your host, Angèle Alain. Join us as we showcase treasures from our digital collections; guide you through our many services; and introduce you to the people who acquire, safeguard and make known Canada’s documentary heritage.

    This year, Canada commemorates the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812; a unique opportunity for all Canadians to take pride in our traditions, and our shared history. The Government of Canada recognizes the War of 1812 as a defining moment in the history of our nation and has big plans to commemorate this event of national and international significance. This commemoration is just one of the many events that are bringing Canadians together and will continue to link us in the years to come.

    On June 18, 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain and its British North American colonies, in what is today central and Eastern Canada. British troops, assisted by both English- and French-speaking Canadian militiamen and First Nations allies, repelled American invasions over the course of more than two years. With the end of the war, the foundation was laid for Confederation, and Canada’s emergence as an independent nation in North America.

    Library and Archives Canada [(LAC)] holds a vast and unique collection of records about the men and women whose lives were touched by the War of 1812. Aligned with the Government of Canada’s commemoration of the war’s bicentennial, LAC has digitized and made available online much of the 1812 collection, including muster rolls, pay lists for Upper and Lower Canada, claims and losses, certificates of service, medal registers, and letters and correspondence. For access to all newly digitized records, including our latest Flickr set, please find Library and Archives Canada’s War of 1812 portal featured on our homepage. In addition to digitization efforts, LAC is also exhibiting a number of 1812 collection items at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Entitled Faces of 1812, the exhibit opened on June 13, 2012, and will run until January 6, 2013.

    Stay tuned at the end of the episode for more information about the Government of Canada’s and Library and Archives Canada’s War of 1812 online portals.

    In this episode, we are talking with professional historian and professor of public history at Trent University, Michael Eamon. Michael will talk to us about curating the Faces of 1812 exhibit, how it came about, why he chose to include the works he did, and will explain why the War of 1812 is significant to all Canadians.

    Hi Michael, thanks for joining us. So I understand you were contracted by Library and Archives Canada to curate the Faces of 1812 exhibit at the Canadian War Museum…what’s it all about?

    Michael Eamon: When I was first asked to do the exhibition, they said “Mike, can you pull together some portraits of everyday life, portraits of everyday Canadians, faces from the War of 1812” and indeed the exhibition is called Faces of 1812. The problem that I first ran into though is that everyday people did not have their portraits done in the early 1800s. And so I had to broaden the scope of the exhibition—including what they call documentary art, landscapes, images of people in different formats (perhaps in a painting or a print), other types of items such as globes and maps and that—to talk not only about the faces of the people, but also the places and the spaces that they inhabited.

    AA: So it’s such a wide selection, how do you decide what goes in the exhibition?

    ME: It was really tough, we started off with probably 200 items and we kept on narrowing down the list. This exhibition, it should be said, is at the Canadian War Museum in the front area of the museum right beside their temporary exhibition space. And in that exhibition space they are mounting a very large exhibition on the War of 1812. So we wanted to do something that would complement and not repeat the types of issues that the Canadian War Museum was going to portray in their exhibition. So this is a complementary exhibition, a sampler, and as such we went from those 200 items, down and down and down until we got [to] about 30 of the best of those hundreds of items.

    AA: So you’ve chosen a breadth of not only material, but also perspectives of the war?

    ME: Well, whenever you create a museum exhibition there are many types of aspects you are trying to do to engage the public, to get people interested in the content. So it’s not just pictures at an exhibition, pictures on a wall, you want people to somehow be provoked by what they see. Now this isn’t in an angry sort of way. Provocation in the museum sense is to get people thinking about the content.

    AA: Right.

    ME: Louis-Joseph Papineau, many people know, was the moderate rebel leader in the rebellions of Lower Canada in 1837. He was the long-standing speaker of the assembly in Lower Canada, he was a lawyer, and in 1834 he helped draft the 92 resolutions that started, that tried to start, the dialogue of change in Quebec and Quebec politics. So a lot of people say “Why is he in a War of 1812 exhibition?”

    AA: Right, I was just going to ask that actually.

    ME: And the thing is that the War of 1812 shaped many people, and of course Louis-Joseph Papineau was alive at the time and he was a part of the Canadian militia at the time. And of course the war, the conflict they had against the United States, shaped many people’s ideologies and mindsets, and also helped shape Louis-Joseph Papineau. And it also shows how long the war left an indelible mark on the political structure on Upper and Lower Canada. In fact, issues of a more republican and perhaps a different style of government couldn’t even be mentioned in polite company in the first decades after the war because there was so much anti-American sentiment. So people like Louis-Joseph Papineau had to take a more moderate path. And of course we know others who took a more radical path in the rebellion, but part of Louis-Joseph Papineau’s moderation came from this experience, where he was in fact part of the government and part of the militia.

    AA: Did Papineau participate in the War of 1812?

    ME: He was a captain, but he was part of the judge advocate general’s office. So he served in the function as a lawyer dealing with legal matters that would come up during the war.

    AA: Did Papineau bring a French perspective to the war?

    ME: Oh definitely, he of course being a Quebecer (he was born in Montreal), he and his image is indicative of a much greater contingent of French Canadians that helped fight in the war. Indeed the war brought together French Canadians, English-speaking Canadians, First Nations peoples, and the British of course, all against a common foe. And there were at this time period, or just before, leading up to the war, there were great language tensions and political tensions in Lower Canada. And so the war drew people out of their particular tensions and made a common foe for everyone to fight against.

    AA: Let’s talk about the portrait of Sir Isaac Brock. What’s so special about this portrait?

    ME: This is one of the most iconic images of Isaac Brock that we have. In fact, it is so popular that the Government of Canada has used it in its official War of 1812 commemoration website. There are four images being used as the key images, key icons of the era, and this painting is one of them. It is an exciting painting and it is also fascinating because this painting was done long after Brock had died—it was painted in 1897. And what this painting does is it appeals to what I call the “historical imagination,” our idea of what the past looked like. And in fact, many of the paintings in the exhibition were not painted during the War of 1812, but were painted subsequently after the war. I say this is a lot like historical movies today, where you have a re-enactment or a director’s impression of how the past was, and in an era before the moving picture, of course there were historical paintings that gave an impression of what the past was to the public.

    AA: So this portrait says a lot about the artist?

    ME: Indeed it does. It was inspired from a sketch that the artist found in Guernsey. Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands and it’s where Brock was born. He [the artist] went back to his [Brock’s] birthplace and he found this image in the family home and then he used that as the inspiration for his portrait [of Brock]. And so it does tell you a lot about the research that went into the painting, a little bit about Forster [artist John Wycliffe Forster] himself, and his sense of romanticism. But it also talks about the public at large that have now adopted this image as the key image of Isaac Brock. When you think of Isaac Brock, you think of this image.

    AA: Can you tell us about Brock’s role in the war?

    ME: Sir Isaac Brock was a civic administrator and a general. He was well liked. It’s funny; he has a dual role in the War of 1812. As a military leader he was well liked by his men. In fact, he was brought in before the war to quell problems that were at Fort George and in the Upper Canada region, and he successfully ended the problems amongst soldiers—there was infighting and that. Afterwards, he was appointed the civil governor, the lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, as well as in charge of the forces of Upper Canada. He was not as successful as a civil governor, he tried to tell the legislature in Upper Canada and Lower Canada (there was an elected legislation), and he said “Please, war is coming. We know this, we need more men for the militia, we need to suspend habeas corpus. We need to do all these types of items that will help the civil power fight a war.” And of course the Upper Canada legislature, which was full of Loyalists, who are basically Americans, had come up during the American Revolution and a bit afterwards; they were like “Do we really want to suspend civil rights? Do you really think there is going to be a war? We’ll give you a little money for the militia, but don’t bother us Brock.” Brock had a large fight with another gentleman named George Prévost. Prévost was the governor of all of British North America, and he was based in Québec. Prévost thought when the battle came; we had to have a strong Québec City, a strong Lower Canada. Brock said “You know when the battle comes; it’s going to be fought on the Niagara Peninsula.” So they had conflicting issues too, and of course Brock proved to be right, when the battle did start it was all in the Niagara Peninsula and around Detroit, and that area. And Brock was very successful at the beginning because he was prepared, he was ready, he won the battle of Detroit, he successfully repulsed the early American incursions, and then he met his tragic end at the Battle of Queenston Heights very early on in the war in October of 1812.

    AA: Is that why he is perceived as a war hero?

    ME: Indeed. He was a very tall man, over six-feet tall, handsome, athletic, the soldiers loved him, but as I said before, the civil authorities, the legislatures and people like that were not as keen on Brock, but there is nothing like dying in battle to make you a universal hero. And indeed, phrases such as the savior of Upper Canada, the hero of Upper Canada, have now been bandied about. It played into that again, the public perception at the time, that a true hero was selfless and died for the good of others, and indeed Brock did die on Queenston Heights leading the charge. And, both American and British and Canadian authorities mourned his death. So that showed also that there was a universal sense of his heroic deeds and nature, and his honour that he exhibited on the battlefield.

    AA: Can you tell us about the artwork entitled “Meeting of Brock and Tecumseh, 1812”?

    ME: Yeah, this is a very interesting piece. Again, it’s iconic. I wanted to also appeal to what is called the familiar. So we used images like Louis-Joseph Papineau which are unfamiliar to provoke people’s response, “Why is this guy here? Why is he important to the War of 1812?” On the other side, images such as Brock, or Brock meeting Tecumseh, go to what museum and curatorial studies call the familiar. People who visit a museum or a site want to learn, but they also want to have confirmed what they have already learned is true. They want to see things that they expect to see, and this appeals to that. This painting was done by C.W. Jefferys, one of the greatest historical painters in Canada. And much like the Forster painting of Brock, or the portrait of Brock, C.W. Jefferys’s painting happened long after, almost 100 years after the War of 1812. And it appeals to our historical imagination, and when you think of the War of 1812, or many Canadian scenes, you think of C.W. Jefferys’s paintings. And indeed, these are his romantic visions of the past. I’m not saying they are necessarily correct, he researched them well, he was excellent at his job, but again they appeal to his historical imagination.

    AA: It’s an interpretation.

    ME: It’s an interpretation of what happened.

    AA: Right.

    ME: There was no painter or artist, when Brock and Tecumseh met, scribbling it down, thinking “Oh, this is going to live in history.” Of course, Brock and other people wrote [things] down about the meeting, and Brock had great respect for the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh. So I wanted to show this image to, one, talk about how these images perpetuate into the memory of 1812, but also for the content in itself. This is an important alliance between First Nations and British North Americans.

    AA: Can you tell us more about Tecumseh? Who was he, and why was the relationship important with Brock?

    ME: Tecumseh was a Shawnee chief. The Shawnee are an Algonquian-speaking peoples in the Ohio region of [what is] now the United States. I’m going to talk a little history for a moment. After the Treaty of Paris in 1783 that ended the American Revolution, one of the provisions was that [the] British were to “hightail” it out of their forts in the Indian Territory—or the Ohio country. That way, it would clear the way for American settlement. The British didn’t want to go, and in fact they needed another treaty in 1794, called Jay’s Treaty, to say “Ok, your time is up guys, get out of the forts, this is our territory,” and the British grudgingly left the forts. Well, the British all this time had been creating alliances with the First Nations in the region. Well, the Americans, as they started filtering in, of course came into contact and a series of First Nations and American wars erupted, and it was quite violent. On both sides there were atrocities committed, and the Shawnee were one of the peoples that came face to face against the Americans and settlers coming into the Ohio country. Well, this escalated and with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803—this is when France owned a big chunk of what is now the United States—and in 1803 for the mere price of 15 million bucks, which is a deal, they sold this [land] to the United States and doubled the territory of the United States. So if the Americans had any ideas that the entire continent belonged to them, doubling their territory in one fell swoop kind of fed that along. So there is more population pressure to move out west, go out west young man, head on out west, and of course there are already peoples living out west such as the Shawnee. This came to a bit of a head in 1811, where there is the Battle of Tippecanoe, right before the War of 1812, where Tecumseh’s brother, called the Prophet (he was a spiritual man), had a failed battle with the American settlers and tensions were at an all-time high. So Tecumseh, even though the Shawnee were independent peoples, believed it was important to ally themselves officially with Brock and the British because they saw the impending storm, they saw the writing on the wall, and they knew that the British had always been friendly with them and that they were, you know, of all the allies around them, they were the best to partner with. And when the war came, the Shawnee, as well as many other First Nations peoples, fought on the side of the British.

    AA: Can you describe what the painting of Brock and Tecumseh actually looks like?

    ME: It’s a very rich, warmly coloured painting. It’s not a portrait so it actually shows the two men meeting: Tecumseh wearing more earthen tones, Native dress and regalia; and Brock in his red tunic with hand extended to Tecumseh. It is a very emotional emotive piece and it is also, of course, of the Edwardian era that it came out of, romantic, expressed tones of manliness, and of course meeting as equals.

    AA: You’ve included a work with another well-known Canadian historical figure, Laura Secord. What’s happening in the work, and why is it significant?

    ME: Much like the C.W. Jefferys’s [painting] of Brock meeting Tecumseh; it’s another coming together of two people. You have Laura Secord in a dramatic pose, relating her story to Lieutenant Fitzgibbon, who is listening with intent. And again, it’s in headquarters inside a cabin with plans and tables and other soldiers, again that kind of sense that there was a nerve centre on the frontier, and this time instead of being Brock’s nerve centre, it was the one that Lieutenant Fitzgibbon was at. Now the story is (this is preceding the Battle of Beaver Dams), the story is that Laura Secord’s husband had been wounded and was convalescing in their house and she had overheard plans of the American battle, or the attempted American attack at Beaver Dams, so she walked 30 kilometres to get to headquarters to warn Lieutenant Fitzgibbon about the impending conflict that the Americans had planned. The story then goes through different reiterations and changes, some people say that Fitzgibbon actually knew this was coming and said “Thank you very much for coming” and appreciated her coming, but they had it under control. Other parts of the story say no, in fact she was integral in warning the authorities about the American attack. There are stories about her leading a cow, not having a cow, it’s amazing how historical memory and myth mix into each other.

    AA: Especially when artwork is maybe done 50 or 100 years later.

    ME: Well exactly, and the really fascinating thing about Laura Secord is nobody knows exactly what she looks like. And that’s because no portraits of her were ever done during her life, and this makes you question too. And in the exhibition we show this image—there is a larger story—it makes you question, why weren’t any portraits done of Laura Secord, a veritable heroine of the War of 1812?

    AA: How did women, in general, factor into the War of 1812?

    ME: It’s very fascinating on both sides. Heroines emerge such as Laura Secord, and on the American side there is Fanny Doyle, and we actually have an image of her in the exhibition as well. Fanny Doyle manned the cannons at Fort Niagara and helped repulse British invaders. So there are many stories of women doing heroic deeds. But of course women were alongside the men in many other ways. We have a portrait of a woman who was in Kingston as a widow, who was raising her family, and as Kingston became one of the major naval stations in the Canadas she saw the whole noise and the craziness and the tragedy of the war emerge around her. Women supported their husbands of course. There were constraints on what women could do because of the roles that they had in society at the time, but there were women such as widows who supported their families and took on a very strong role which was important, keeping the home fires burning for their sons, or if they were married, for their husbands fighting in the conflict. You know, women had a very integral role in keeping the community together, and quite frankly not enough research has been done. Some people, such as Diane Graves and others, have written about the role of women in the War of 1812, but a lot more can be done to expand our knowledge about the role women played.

    AA: Here is archivist Patricia Kennedy of Library and Archives Canada. She talks to us about the important role women played in the War of 1812.

    Patricia Kennedy: Women played a role that is more important than has been recognized. This is one of the issues, that until relatively recently the majority of history was written by men, and well, most history is written by the winners, so we have their perspective. And they may not tell us much about women, children, Aboriginal [people], or any other minorities. And yet, there are incredible, rich sources of information on the lives of women. If you look at the War of 1812 Losses and Claims, many claims are put in by widows, or women whose husbands are temporarily absent. And they detail a wide range of information about the family circumstances, about their experiences, about their level of education, and all of this is sitting waiting to be discovered. A large proportion of researchers using the resources at Library and Archives Canada will discover things that they haven’t found in history books that each historian writes from a particular perspective and leaves other things out. So when you go into the records yourself, you find things that they didn’t consider worth mentioning in their history book.

    AA: In the exhibit, there are two works about the sea battle between the Shannon and the Chesapeake; can you tell us about those two pieces?

    ME: Yes, I included that because a lot of what we think about the War of 1812 is the campaign in Upper Canada, sometimes we think about Lake Champlain, and sometimes we think about the St. Lawrence River and Charles de Salaberry in that part of Quebec, but the battle was fought in many areas in the War of 1812, and a large theatre of war, or area of operations, sorry, was the Atlantic ocean.

    AA: Joining us is archivist Timothy Dubé of Library and Archives Canada; he speaks to us about the significance of the naval battles during the War of 1812, and the wealth of resources available at LAC documenting them.

    Timothy Dubé: Britain’s Royal Navy had more than 600 fighting ships in commission at the time of the War of 1812. By comparison, the U.S. Navy had eight frigates and 14 sloops of war and brigs, and these were limited to service in the Atlantic. Britain imposed a blockage of U.S. ports. The U.S. ships would slip out to launch hit-and-run raids on British vessels, but was largely ineffective at disrupting British shipping. Both sides also employed privateers, which were licensed raiders. Privateering could be quite lucrative, but also dangerous. The records of the prizes taken on the Atlantic by Royal Navy vessels and Nova Scotian privateers are held today by Library and Archives Canada. Also held are captains’ and lieutenants’ letters.

    ME: The Americans were getting very angry with how the British were controlling the waterways, and indeed British ships would stop, at will, American ships and vessels and take or impress sailors. Now an impressed sailor is, what they are saying is, you are a sailor of the British Royal Navy and we think you’ve deserted and we are going to take you back. Now of course Americans got angry at this because how do you discern a British-born subject and an American subject? Often the accents are the same and British law said that once born a Britain, always a Britain. So the British thought they had a case that they could just impress American sailors off of sailing vessels. And so the Atlantic Ocean and naval campaigns took on an extra ferocious nature because of these longstanding grievances between the British and the Americans. On June of 1813, the Shannon, which was a British vessel, and the Chesapeake, which was an American vessel, met. Now the captain of the Chesapeake, the American vessel, was a man named James Lawrence, and the captain of the Shannon was a man named Philip Broke. Broke was a fanatic. He loved gunnery; he loved to train his men. They would say “Can we take a break?” He would say “No, we’re going to keep practicing the guns, keep manning the guns.” And, when I say guns, I mean cannons, and so they’d keep manning the guns and firing the guns. And naval gunnery was an art, it was one of the most ferocious and bloody ways to fight because the things you put in cannons are not just cannon balls, but different types of shot: canister shot, like a canister full of little balls, like a shotgun blast; grape shot, which would be a canister with big balls which would take out a limb...

    AA: Or the side of a boat…

    ME: Or the side of a boat! You had a chain shot, a rod shot, different shots just to take out the rigging of the ships. And when naval battles were fought, this is where you have [a] romantic idea, which was quite true, of the broadside, where the two ships instead of going nose to nose…

    AA: Side to side…

    ME: Side to side, and let her rip so to speak. And the last man standing was the person winning. Well, in June of 1813, the Shannon and the Chesapeake, the two ships engaged. They were about 40 kilometres east of Boston when this happened, so this gives you a sense of the expanse of the war. This is not happening in the Great Lakes, this is not happening outside of Halifax, this is happening right near Boston. Well, they see each other and get within 35 metres side by side, and they let it rip, broadsides fire. And there is about six minutes of broadsides between the two ships. Now, typical theory was you take out the rigging and then render your opponent disabled. Broke, on the other hand, decided to aim off his cannons at the gun decks of the American ship, and when they fired the broadsides they virtually disabled the firepower of the American ship and destroyed a lot of the structure of the ship. In fact, the two ships (within the six-minute fight) got caught, and then in a very swashbuckling sense, ropes were thrown across and Broke led a landing party and there was another 13 minutes of battle on the deck, bloody hand-to-hand combat. And the two images that are shown in the exhibition: one is a very romantic image of this very bloody hand-to-hand combat on the deck of the Chesapeake, and the other one is a cartoon, a caricature done poking fun at the Americans and how cowardly they were. In fact, the Americans weren’t cowardly at all. It was a bloody devastating battle. The British did win in the end. Both captains, Captain Broke and Captain Lawrence, were injured. Lawrence died and Broke had a piece of his head taken off. And with a severe head injury, they had to go to a lieutenant minor officer to sail both of the ships back to Halifax. The War of 1812 should have been a war where the British or the Royal Navy was on top. The Royal Navy was the most powerful sea fighting force in the world, but they lost many of the battles. So the Shannon and Chesapeake conflict created a lot of pride amongst the British, rekindled pride that they were still on top. And indeed the very romantic picture that is being shown in the exhibition was distributed widely in England, again to show “Here we are on top once again, and here are our heroic men, just like Brock.” But in the case of Captain Broke, he didn’t die, but again it shows a sense of selflessness to the cause and the sense of romantic engagement that occurred. The caricature again shows how the Americans were depicted as weak and cowardly in the face of battle.

    AA: So what was the significance of this battle for the War of 1812?

    ME: On the whole, not a huge significance in the battle per say. But again [in] the propaganda war, the idea of inspiring the imagination of people that Britain is once again on top in a naval type of sense, and the shame for the Americans to have their ship taken back, it was very important.

    AA: It’s a mind game.

    ME: Yeah, exactly, and a lot of war today (or 200 years ago) is about the mind games, as you say.

    AA: The morale, and the pride…

    ME: For those who may not have heard of the Shannon and Chesapeake engagement, you may, however, have heard of the phrase “Don’t give up the ship.” That was a phrase uttered by Captain James Lawrence, the American captain of the Chesapeake, before he died in the engagement. There are so many of these phrases that come from the War of 1812, and they have entered our collective memory. And what is fascinating is a lot of people now don’t realize where the origins are. For example, a lot of people may say “Don’t give up the ship!”, but, it came from the War of 1812.

    AA: What can people hope to get out of the experience of visiting the exhibit?

    ME: I think, firstly, it will be fascinating looking into the eyes of somebody who experienced the War of 1812. A lot of these portraits depict people who were there. And the portraits were [created] at or just after the war itself, and you can see the eyes of people who experienced such tragedy, such hardship, such political upheaval at the time. The other part is to question how we see the War of 1812, so beside the portraits and paintings of people who were actually there and painted near the time, will be portraits that were done much after the fact, sometimes 100 years after the war, and they depict how we continue to see the War of 1812 and how we face the War of 1812 in our modern lives. And finally, looking at the vast variety of material culture items—the archival documents that are there (not just paintings, portraits and documentary art, but the globes, the maps, the textual documents)—that shows, as well, the breadth of collections at Library and Archives Canada and the breadth of our human footprint. You know, what we leave behind us is quite large, and even though a lot of it deteriorates, lots of it gets lost, perhaps burns, or is destroyed; we still leave a footprint, and an exhibition like this I think is important to tie us today to that footprint of the past.

    AA: What can Canadians learn about the War of 1812 at Library and Archives Canada that they can’t learn anywhere else?

    ME: Library and Archives Canada is such a treasure, it really is. The most detailed repository of historical documents that we have in this country. And so, what can you learn here? What can’t you learn here? We have the documentary art; we have globes and maps, textual documents, including military documentation, as well as private papers. Library and Archives Canada is structured to collect both the private papers of individuals and the public government documents. This is a unique type of institution. The United States and Great Britain, for example, don’t have one institution that handles all of this. So in a sense, it is your one-stop shop for Canadian history, and especially the War of 1812. So what can you find here? What can’t you find, I have to emphasize again. Those military public documents, the government documents—but you’ll find the journals of hardship, written by everyday Canadians. You’ll find the paintings, the portraits used in the exhibition, plus so much more. We started off with a list of over 200 items and that’s just for this exhibition. There are thousands of items just waiting for people to discover.

    AA: If I’m interested in doing research on the War of 1812, where do I start?

    ME: That’s a great question. It’s very difficult, in one sense, because there are just so many places to go. It’s all around us now, and I think people are realizing we’re in 2012, 200 years have passed, and truly it’s time to celebrate or commemorate the War of 1812. One of the best places to start is the Government of Canada’s War of 1812 portal. It’s a portal that links to different sites such as Library and Archives Canada, such as Parks Canada, which have invested heavily in the commemorations in the War of 1812. There are so many sites to go to, but the portal is a great way to direct you to different sites. At the Library and Archives Canada’s own site, there are so many search engines for different types of documents, so I definitely recommend people go there to get down into the nitty-gritty of the research.

    AA: Can you tell me what you think is the most interesting historical aspect of the War of 1812?

    ME: Well, there is so much to say, because you know, in one way, the War of 1812 united French- and English-speaking Canadians, First Peoples and the British against a common foe and that is very fascinating. That it takes that type of event to bring people together, and then where do we go from there? But another thing that really fascinates me about this is the question, “Why?” And I think that’s the historical question. It’s not who, or when, or how. They’re important questions, but why, why did the War of 1812 happen, why were certain people remembered and certain people forgotten, and why do we remember it today? And I think some people say “Well, I live out in Vancouver,” or “I’m in Iqaluit, what does the War of 1812 mean to me?” And physically, not a lot, because those regions were not settled in the way they are today, and were not involved in the conflict, but the question “Why?” is a personal question. You can ask yourself as a Canadian today, “Why is this important to me, why is it important to be Canadian, and why is our history important?” And I think every Canadian can ask those questions and then maybe get fired up, get really enthusiastic about the conflict, about the people, the faces, and the individuals that were involved along the way to make us who we are today.

    AA: Well, thank you for being with us today Mike.

    ME: You’re very welcome, thank you.

    AA: To find out more about the Government of Canada’s commemorative initiatives for the War of 1812, please visit www.1812.gc.ca.

    And, don’t forget to visit Library and Archives Canada’s Faces of 1812 exhibit at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa until January 6, 2013. For those unable to visit, check out our Flickr set, including many of the works on exhibit. To learn more about Library and Archives Canada’s commemorative projects for the war’s bicentennial, and to access our Flickr set, please visit our website at: www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/1812.

    Thank you for joining us. I’m your host, Angèle Alain, and you’ve been listening to Discover Library and Archives Canada—where Canadian history, literature and culture await you. A special thanks to our guests today, Michael Eamon, Timothy Dubé, and Patricia Kennedy.

    For more information about our podcast, or if you have questions, comments or suggestions, please visit us at www.bac-lac.gc.ca/podcasts.


Subscribe to automatically receive new episodes.

Related links

Contact the podcast team

Send your feedback to: bac.balados-podcasts.lac@canada.ca