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Remembering 1812 in the 1840s: John Richardson and the Writing of the War

London Journal of Canadian Studies


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      Soldier, traveller, writer, and journalist John Richardson’s 1840 history of the War of 1812, along with his novel, The Canadian Brothers, also published in 1840, were some of the first written efforts by Upper Canadians to craft histories of the conflict. Richardson drew heavily on his own experiences as a young soldier during this time, mixing autobi­ ography and documentary sources to craft his history; he also drew on his childhood in the Windsor-Detroit area for his novel. His work drew attention to the conflict in the southwestern area of the colony, a region at times overlooked in the War’s public memory in favour of the Niagara peninsula. Richardson’s accounts of the War of 1812 are notable for a number of reasons. Richardson himself was a highly mobile figure in the imperial and transatlantic world of the British military: his writings are part of the context of broader discussions of the Napoleonic Wars. Equally importantly, Richardson’s­ work highlights the effects of war on men’s bodies and their deployment in wartime struggle. His history and novel tell us much about discourses of masculinity in wartime, both European and Indigenous.

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