Monday, October 8, 2012

1812 and 1916

As you may remember, I've posted before about WWI archaeological discoveries. The whole Western Front is rife with caved-in bunkers, trenches, artifacts, and unexploded ordinance. Most municipalities in the area still manage regular collections of shells, grenades, and other ammunition kicked up by farmers and construction work. In other cases, the remains of the Great War run so deep that they are inaccessible to all but the professionals. Here's an interesting video about the tunnels dug some 80 feet below the Somme battlefield during attempts to detonate explosives below enemy lines. You can read more about the excavations in this area here.

In the Somme tunnels. ITV Meridian.

This might ring a bell for Civil War buffs - it was much the same strategy as that used at Petersburg in 1864, which resulted in the "Battle of the Crater."

In fact, the Civil War has been in the news a lot lately, chiefly because we're in the midst of the conflict's 150th anniversary. Simultaneously, the War of 1812 is also enjoying some much-deserved attention during its 200th anniversary. Not all of this press is coming from the United States, either. Canada has been significantly more engaged in promoting the anniversary than we have (although certain states, like Maryland, have been pushing historical tourism related to 1812). Here's an interesting story from The New York Times about Canada's promotional efforts and their connections with the controversial politics of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Don't miss the promotional advertisement, which you can watch here. It's actually pretty well produced from a material culture and costume viewpoint. But its attracted some controversy for its overtly militaristic and nationalistic tone. These are troubling aspects given the succeeding 200 years of peaceful (minus a Fenian raid or two) relations between Canada and the U.S. and, from an historical standpoint, the fact that Canada was not even a country at the time of the war. The hope is that we can get past all the nationalistic rhetoric and understand the conflict for all it was - a complicated, violent, and multifaceted war that, if militarily indecisive, left significant marks on the cultures and mindsets of two nations.

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