Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Alternative Histories - the War of 1812

Photo: Major General Sir Isaac Brock

I have a confession. I love alternative histories. You know, the what if kind.

Perhaps all this started with my love of science fiction with its multiple alternative worlds. Or, more likely, my love of science fiction came from my habit from an early age of wondering what might have happened if things had gone differently at a point in history.

Take Major General Sir Isaac Brock as an example. If Brock had not been killed at Queenston Heights, then it seems quite likely that the war of 1812 between the US and the British would have ended as a crushing US defeat instead of something closer to a draw. The US invasion of what is now Canada failed, Washington was burnt to the ground, but the US did consolidate its hold across the continent.

Well, in eighteen and fourteen we took a little trip

along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.

We took a little bacon and we took a little beans,

And we caught the bloody British near the town of New Orleans.

I kind of objected to this Johnny Horton song when it first came out in 1959 - it won the 1959 Grammy Award for Song Of The Year (awarded in 1960 for musical accomplishments in 1959) and also the 1959 Grammy Award for Best Country And Western Performance. You see I cheered for the British Empire and Canadian colonies.

The War of 1812, actually 1812-1815, is now largely forgotten outside the US and Canada. There it can still cause controversy, as evidenced by the Wikipedia discussion on the article.

This neglect is a pity. Not only was it a major conflict, but it was also something of a historical turning point. Had Brock not been killed, then it is quite possible that the war would have taken a different course and that, consequently, continental US that we know today might not have come into existence, or at least would have taken a different form.

The big losers of the War of 1812? The Indian tribes fighting for their homelands because, as I see it, they lost their last chance with the re-establishment of the status-quo.


Unknown said...

Have you read the Southern Victory series by Harry Turtledove? The North loses the American Civil war, and Turtledove carries that plot all the way to now. Very smart and very entertaining.

Unknown said...

Not up to today, up to the end of World War Two, sorry.

Jim Belshaw said...

I do like, Turtledove, Thomas. Both his alternative history series and his other books. He has the capacity to create very believable alternative worlds.