This year marks the bicentennial of the War of 1812, a formative episode in Toronto’s history that greatly effected the way our city has developed and our communal heritage. To mark the occasion, Heritage Toronto has partnered with the Royal Ontario Museum and the Toronto Public Library to provide a series of public discussions across the city. Entitled War of 1812: Bicentennial Talks, the first lecture was held earlier this week, with more scheduled throughout May and June.
The War of 1812 was a large-scale military conflict between the British Empire and the United States, fought for a variety of reasons; recurring tensions from the Revolutionary War 30 years prior came to the fore, with many Americans still divided between Federalists (those seeking strong British ties) and Republicans. Since Canada was still a part of the British Empire, its southern settlements (i.e. the town of York) were prime targets, largely undefended and seen as safe havens for fleeing Loyalists.
While we may not have been able to fend off the advances of the American military (York was sacked twice in 1813), Britain managed to maintain dominion over the small settlement and capital of Upper Canada following the departure of the American forces, who were unimpressed with the “mosquito-infested” town. York subsequently boomed, and was renamed Toronto in 1834.
The lectures will look at the Battle of York amongst other important events, with discussions that ask what the economic, political and cultural landscape could have been had we lost, and in-depth examinations of key figures such as Tecumseh and Brock. Etobicoke, York and Scarborough are each hosting their own talks as well, providing local perspectives on the wide-ranging effects of the war. For more information and dates, you can check the schedule on Heritage Toronto’s website here — most talks are free and are on a first come, first seated basis, so be sure to arrive early.