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Napoleon, friend?


Matt Yglesias briefly notes a historical lacuna:

But if fireworks we are meant to have (and apparently we are) then must they really be accompanied by the 1812 Overture? The United States, after all, was on the other side of that particular war,** which I think renders it pretty unsuitable for patriotic occassions.

** I always wonder why they don’t teach the War of 1812 as being a (rather small) part of the Napoleonic Wars in American history classes, and wonder if French or British or Russian schools do it differently.

War of 1812? Isn’t that when the King of England tried to come over and conquer the US again? That’s about as far as my American Foreign Policy students ever get in understanding the war. The very best among them will mention something about the British boarding our ships and stealing our sailors. This narrative has several virtues:

1. We won. We’re still independent, right?
2. They’re bad. They tried to conquer us, right?
3. The war is completely unconnected to anything else happening in the world at the time. We didn’t fight on the same side as a dictator with imperial ambitions, right?
4. Don’t even start talking about us being buddies with the French.

Unlike some of the other blind spots in US history (high school version), I don’t even really get pissed off about the War of 1812. It’s just kind of funny. I’m sure Scott has more to add. . .

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