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  • Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Alan Taylor
    • Narrated By Andrew Garman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (80)
    Performance
    (62)
    Story
    (61)

    Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Alan Taylor tells the riveting story of a war that redefined North America. In a world of double identities, slippery allegiances, and porous borders, the leaders of the American Republic and the British Empire struggled to control their own diverse peoples. Taylor’s vivid narrative of an often brutal—sometimes farcical—war reveals much about the tangled origins of the United States and Canada.

    margot says: "A proper history of an obscure epoch"
    "Refreshing...kinda"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you love best about Civil War of 1812?

    Well, written and more balanced than usual.


    What three words best describe Andrew Garman’s voice?

    Measured, well-enunciated, but with occasional mispronunciations,


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    Given that the author is an American historian, he is reasonably even-handed and does not portray the War of 1812 in the usual starry-eyed, "it was a glorious victory really" style of most American history. He does, however, occasionally fall into that habit Americans have of portraying the British as a mere foil against which Americans tested their fitness for greatness. He also makes some annoying mistakes which a serious historian should not make, even when talking about a foreign power - he keeps referring to the "imperial lords" (I think he means the British Government) and on one occasion refers to "Lord Wellington". Who? The real strength of the book is to point out the complexities of American motives for the war. He places front and centre the objective of breaking British power in North America, the destruction of Indian resistance (both closely interconnected) and the possible windfall outcome of those objectives, the absorption of Upper Canada. He does not sugar-coat the fiasco that was the American Army's performance on the Canadian frontier. For those looking for a general history of the war, they will be disappointed that he does not cover the naval war or British amphibious operations against American shores in any depth (for this, from a British perspective, see Latimer, "The Challenge"). Similarly, although he is excellent on the internal politics of Canada and the US, he does little to explore the economic effects of the war on the US, probably the key issue of the time.He is also very good on the conclusion to the war, and in particular the British Government's sudden switch from holding out tough terms from the Americans to essentially giving the US everything it wanted. Interestingly, he suggests this switch came after Wellington advised to give the US whatever it wanted, and concentrate on the real issues in Europe. Perhaps Mr. Taylor should have subtitled his book "How the Duke of Wellington Saved the Republic"!

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814

    • ABRIDGED (6 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Anthony S. Pitch
    • Narrated By Anthony S. Pitch
    Overall
    (21)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    With all the immediacy of an eyewitness account, Anthony Pitch recounts the dramatic story of the British invasion of Washington, D.C. in the summer of 1814. The British torched the Capitol, the White House, and other buildings, setting off an inferno that illuminated the countryside for miles around and sent President James Madison galloping out of town. The author's gripping account also describes the valiant defense of nearby Fort McHenry and the story of the writing of The Star Spangled Banner.

    Chris says: "Ok book - Bad recording."
    "Of the Old School"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The sound quality is exceptionally poor, and with Mr. Pitch's very pukka English accent it sounds like a wartime BBC radio broadcast! Mr. Pitch delivers his book at a run, sometimes jamming sentences together without a pause. Eventually the listener get used to this, and ultimately there is much useful information in this audiobook, but facts alone do not really save it.

    It appears that this book was written in 1998, and although Anthony Pitch is an expatriate Englishman, he seems to have imbued the mythology of his adoptive country when it comes to the War of 1812. As with the Revolutionary War, British historians have come late to the scene, and it is the American view which has prevailed unchallenged. Things have begun to change, but Mr. Pitch's book still belongs to the 'old school'.

    Within that paradigm Mr. Pitch makes an attempt at even-handedness, but he tends to be betrayed by his repeated references to the British force as a "horde", or similar words, to suggest that the Americans were somehow overwhelmed by a vast military juggernaut. The reality is the British force was small and lightly equipped: Today we might call it a littoral raiding force. This is not made clear. Words like 'vandals' appear, with no counterbalancing explanation of the behaviour of American troops in Canada, or the stated aim of the British to punish America in kind for the burning of York. He also makes some basic historical mistakes, for example when he describes the British troops as 'veterans' of the Peninsular campaign: in fact only one British Army unit had seen combat before.

    Mr. Pitch is to be commended for his presentation of the stories of the non-military actors, especially Booth and others caught up in the chaos. He is less objective when it comes to some of the main leaders on both sides. Madison is presented almost as a quiet hero; there is little background on how he took his country into a pointless war that brought suffering to many Americans, Canadians and Britons and nearly split the nation. Admiral Cockburn at times is presented as a well-mannered, posturing hooligan, bent only on destruction rather than a professional military man intent on bringing the war to his country's enemies. A much better study of Cockburn is provided by James Patch 'The Man Who Burned the White House'.

    As mentioned, this work really belongs to an earlier form of historiography. It even finishes with reference to 1812 as a 'second War of Independence'. For a corrective to this kind of mythologising the reader who is interested in the War should read Jon Latimer's books '1812 The War with America' and 'The Challenge'. Of course none of these books are available on Audible.com, although plenty of American histories of 1812 are!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Blenheim: Battle for Europe

    • ABRIDGED (6 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Charles Spencer
    • Narrated By Charles Spenser
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    By the summer of 1704, Louis XIV's vast armies dominated Europe. France defeated every alliance formed against her and Louis was poised to extend his frontier to the Rhine and install a French prince on the throne of Spain. Two men saved Europe from French military domination: the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy. Marlborough masterminded a brilliant campaign, working with Eugene to surprise the French invaders inside Germany.

    Amazon Customer says: "A fascinating bit of history, succinctly told"
    "A fascinating bit of history, succinctly told"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    If you could sum up Blenheim in three words, what would they be?

    Gripping, convoluted, magnificent.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The complexities of a Europe divided between two ruling families - Habsburgs and Bourbons - were clearly explained.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    The narrative is delivered by Princess Diana's brother in a clipped, pukka English accent, adding to the 'feel' of the story. It helped immerse the listener in this period of high stakes monarchical face-off.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Ultimately, it is a story that sounds strange to the modern ear: Men willing to face the carnage of 18th Century combat to further the ambitions of remote rulers. And yet it produced remarkable men like Marlborough and Prince Eugene, the military geniuses of their day.


    Any additional comments?

    For those not familiar with this period, or why English (later British) troops were marching around central Europe, this is an excellent introduction.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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