The Battle of Bladensburg

330px-Private_of_MarinesToday is Veterans Day in the US, Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth. We honor those who have served in the armed forces. It seems a good day to look at one battle of the Regency period. This is 'my Regency battlefield'. Unlike Waterloo and Austerlitz, it happened near to home.

When Americans think of the War of 1812 they rather vaguely think 'we won'.


Dolly Madison

They recognize some famous quotes. The Capital got burned. Boo! And there was Dolly Madison. But they have no idea What It Was All About. Historians still scratch their heads over this question.

British people, when this 'War of 1812' is mentioned, are apt to say, "What? Oh, that." For them the war in America was a little bagatelle of a campaign, fought while everybody was concerned with Napoleon.

This indecisive and fairly pointless war crosses my own life the day the British marched into Washington and burned the capitol building. On their way in, they fought in a hamlet called Bladensburg. My home town. I learned the history of this battle in a school perched on a hill where American scouts once waited for the British.

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What We’re reading — November

Anne here, hosting our monthly feature "What We're Reading"

We'll start with Jo Beverley, who says: I recently dived into my keeper shelves, and I've been re-reading Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles. I used to read the whole series frequently, but I haven't for a while now and I decided it was time. Six big books and not as much reading time as I used to have, but I'm enjoying them tremendously. Gok

For those who don't know them, they're based around a central character, Francis Crawford of Lymond, a Scotsman whose adventures we follow around Europe and up into Russia in the mid-16th century. The books are about him, but stretches are about other important characters and from other points of view and the plots involve most of the significant historical characters and events. The Tudors, the de Guise, Ivan the Terrible, Suleiman the Magnificent, Nostrodamus!

Despite being all about him, we're only in his point of view once, so our picture of him comes through the view of others, which I think is key to the fascination Lymond holds for many. We have to learn him as we learn people in real life — from the outside.  I'm not aware of anyone else having written about a  series character in that way and it was daring for sure back in the '60s.

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