The War of 1812: Out of History’s Shadows with Dr. Richard Bell

The War of 1812: Out of History’s Shadows with Dr. Richard Bell


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The War of 1812 is the most misunderstood war in American history. Its causes, course, and consequences have long been obscured by the shadows cast by two great American conflicts that are its chronological bookends: the American Revolution and the Civil War. In this seminar, Dr. Richard Bell will discuss this momentous war as a watershed moment in the history of a young republic.

Fought on three fronts, including on the streets of Washington, DC, the War of 1812 unfolded on a grand continental canvas. Like the American Revolution that preceded it, it combined bloody battlefield skirmishes with dramatic home-front conflicts that pitted neighbors and communities against one another. Like the Civil War that followed a half-century later, it was also a struggle involving slavery and slaveholding in which enslaved people themselves would claim decisive roles.

Despite its famously inconclusive outcome, the war once and for all established the credibility of the newly formed United States among its European rivals and decisively secured its independence from Great Britain. It also entrenched states’ rights ideology across the slaveholding South and unleashed the new nation’s own imperial ambitions. However, these experiences came at an extraordinary human cost, which Bell illuminates as he talks about the ordinary soldiers and seamen, merchants and laborers, enslaved Africans and Native Americans, whose wartime experiences have long been overlooked.

Led by an expert on American History, Richard Bell, this interactive seminar will explore the often misunderstood war of 1812 and its links to both the Revolution to the Civil War. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of how the war cemented American citizens’ sense of themselves as a nation apart and the human costs of the conflict.

Richard Bell is Professor of History at the University of Maryland and author of the new book "Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home" which is shortlisted for the George Washington Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize. He has held major research fellowships at Yale, Cambridge, and the Library of Congress and is the recipient of the National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar award. He serves as a Trustee of the Maryland Center for History and Culture, as an elected member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, and as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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