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Before arrival to the workshop, Summer Scholars will be assigned readings that will broaden their understanding of USS Constitution and the War of 1812. 

Required Readings:

Hickey, Donald R. The War of 1812: A Short History. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995.

This thorough overview of the War of 1812 is written by the workshop's principal scholar, Donald R. Hickey. This book is a summary of his seminal work, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict. Summer Scholars are expected to have read this book in its entirety before the start of the workshop. It can be purchased through the Museum's gift shop or through major booksellers.

Budiansky, Stephen. Perilous Fight: America’s Intrepid War with Great Britain on the High Seas, 1812-1815. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.

Selected readings from Budiansky's Perilous Fight provide great context on the naval battles that occured as the young American Navy faced the great British Royal Navy. Selected readings will be made available in an advance reading packet, although the book may be purchased through the Museum's gift shop or through major booksellers.

Stagg, J.C.A.  Mr. Madison’s War: Politics, Diplomacy, and Warfare in the Early American Republic, 1783-1830. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1983.

Mr. Madison's War is a complete look at the War of 1812 from the standpoint of the office of the presidency. It provides great insight into President Madison's strategic goals for the conflict and a detailed look at the political strategies used on the American side, including congressional reactions and the resistance the movement met especially in the New England states. Selected readings will be made available in an advance reading packet, although the book may be purchased through major booksellers.

Message from the President of the United States Recommending an Immediate Declaration of War Against Great Britain.  Washington City: Roger C. Weightman, 1812. (Primary Source)

This primary source is a copy of a speech Madison delivered to Congress in 1812, enumerating the several injustices and wrongs committed by Great Britain against the United States, including, amongst other grievances, the impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy, the harassment of merchant vessels, and the blockading of commerce. A transcript of this primary source held in the Museum's collection will be made available in an advance reading packet. 


Treaty of Ghent, available online through the Library of Congress, American State Papers, Senate, 13th Congress, 3rd Session Foreign Relations: Volume 3. pp 218-223  (Primary Source)

Image: Peace, John Rubens Smith, ink and watercolor, c. 1814, Collection of the Library of Congress

The Treaty of Ghent was signed December 24, 1814 and was radicated by Congress the following February. The document ultimately made no concessions to either side and in fact did not address the major causes of the War of 1812. A transcript of the text of this primary source will be included in the advance reading packet, although it may be read online through the Library of Congress' American State Papers on pages 218-223. 


Recommended Readings

The most pertient recommended readings will be available in the advance reading packet, organized by relevent topic day. 

Monday – Seeds of Conflict

An Address of Members of the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States…on the Subject of the War with Great Britain. Hartford, CT: Hudson and Goodwin, 1812. (Primary Source)

An Appeal to the People on the Causes and Consequences of a War with Great Britain. Boston: T.B. Wait and Company, 1811. (Primary Source)

Lowell, John. Mr. Madison's War. A Dispassionate Inquiry into the Reasons Alleged by Mr. Madison for Declaring an Offensive and Ruinous War Against Great Britain. Together with some Suggestions as to a Peaceable and Constitutional Mode of Averting Dreadful Calamity. By a New-England Farmer. Boston: Russell and Cutler, 1812. (Primary Source)

Madison, James. All Impressments Unlawful and Inadmissible. Boston: William Pelham, n.d. (Primary Source)

McCoy, Drew. The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980.

Watts, Steven. "The Liberal Impulse to War." The Republic Reborn: War and the Making of Liberal America, 1790-1820 (1987). Rpt. in Major Problems in the Early Republic, 1787-1848. Ed. Sean Wilentz. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992. 177-186.

Tuesday – Boats and Bombs: War on Land and Sea

Allison, Robert J. Stephen Decatur: American Naval Hero, 1779-1820. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2005.

Fowler, William M. Jack Tars & Commodores: The American Navy 1783-1815. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1984.

Hickey, Donald R. The War of 1812: A Short History. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995.

Snook, George A. and Ira Dye. “An Episode of the War of 1812: The Seaman’s Protective Certificate.” Manuscripts 52.2 (2000): 111-117.

Wednesday – Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times

Altoff, Gerard T. Amongst My Best Men: African-Americans and the War of 1812. Put-In-Bay, OH: The Perry Group, 1996.

Bolster, W. Jeffrey. Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997. (selected chapters)

Leech, Samuel. A Voice From the Main Deck: Being A Record of the Thirty Years’ Adventure of Samuel Leech. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1999. (Primary Source)

Martin, Tyrone G. ed. The USS Constitution’s Finest Fight, 1815: The Journal of Acting Chaplin Assheton Humphreys, US Navy. Mount Pleasant, SC: The Nautical & Aviation Publishing Company of America, 2000. (Primary Source)

Price, Norma Adams. Letters from Old Ironsides 1813-1815, written by Pardon Mawney Whipple, USN. Tempe, AZ: Beverly-Merriam Press, 1984. (Primary Source) 

Smith, Moses. Naval Scenes in the Last War, Or, Three Years Aboard the Frigates Constitution and Adams, Including the Capture of the Guerrière. Boston: Gleason’s Publishing House, 1846. (Primary Source)

Thursday – Warring Perspectives

Anon. “Boston as it appeared to a foreigner at the beginning of the nineteenth century.” The Bostonian Society Publications, Vol. 4.  Boston: Old State House, 1907. 107-121.

Cordingly, David.  Seafaring Women:  Adventures of Pirate Queens, Female Stowaways, and Sailor’s Wives. New York: Random House, 2002.  (selected chapters)

Hutchins, Catherine E. ed. Everyday Life in the Early Republic. Winterthur, DE: Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 1994.

Norling, Lisa. “'How Fraught with Sorrow and Heart Pangs’: Mariners’ Wives and the Ideology of Domesticity in New England, 1790-1880.”  The New England Quarterly Spring (1992).

Taylor, Alan. The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. "'From the Fair to the Brave': Spheres of Womanhood in Federal Maine."Agreeable Situations: Domesticity and Commerce in Coastal Maine, 1780-1830. Ed. Laura Sprague. Kennebunk: Brick Store Museum, 1987. 215-225.

 _____. "Of Pens and Needles: Sources for the Study of Early American Women." Journal of American History 77 (1990): 200-207.

Friday – Memory and Meaning: Impact of the War of 1812

Appleby, Joyce.  Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2000.

Brown, Roger H. "The War of 1812 and the Struggle for Political Permanency." The Republic in Peril: 1812 (1964). Rpt. in Major Problems in the Early Republic, 1787-1848. Ed. Sean Wilentz. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992. 170-176.

Hicks, Daniel. “Broadsides on Land and on Sea: A Cultural Reading of the Naval Engagements of the War of 1812.” Pirates, Jack Tar, and Memory: New Directions in American Maritime History.Ed. Paul A. Gilje and William Pencak. Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport, 2007.

Rossiter, Clinton. "Nationalism and American Identity in the Early Republic." The American Quest: An Emerging Nation in Search of Identity (1971). Rpt. in Major Problems in the Early Republic, 1787-1848. Ed. Sean Wilentz. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992. 14-22.

Zygmont, Bryan J. Portraiture and Politics in New York City, 1790-1825: Gilbert Stuart, John Vanderlyn, John Trumbull, and John Wesley Jarvis. Saarbrucken, Germany: VDM, 2008.

Web Resources

A Sailor’s Life for Me! USS Constitution Museum:

An online game, resource, and curriculum created by the USS Constitution Museum in commemoration of the War of 1812's bicentennial. Includes over 200 lesson plans, activities, and primary source and artifact images. It is illustrated by award-winning illustrator Stephen Biesty with dialogue by young adult author Richard Platt. It is the most accurate depiction of the USS Constitution in 1812 since 1812.


The James Madison Papers at the Library of Congress:

A digital archive of over 70,000 images of original manuscripts, letters, reports, and legal papers by or about James Madison, President of the United States during the War of 1812, from the Library of Congress.


Making of America:

MOA is a digital library of primary sources in American social history primarily from the antebellum period through reconstruction. The collection is particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology. The book collection currently contains approximately 10,000 books with 19th century imprints.


Early American Newspapers Database: 

Subscription required; available through the Samuel Eliot Morison Memorial Library, as well as through many public and academic libraries.


History Matters: 

An annotated guide to the most useful websites for teaching US history and social studies. Entries are carefully screened and selected, and include a paragraph annotation that summarizes the site’s content, notes its strengths and weaknesses, and emphasizes its utility for teachers.



Designed to help K–12 history teachers access resources and materials to improve US history education in the classroom. With funding from the US Department of Education, the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) has created Teachinghistory.org with the goal of making history content, teaching strategies, resources, and research accessible.


Docs Teach:

Created by the National Archives, Docs Teach offers guidance, lesson plans, and ideas for using primary sources in the classroom.


Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.