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May 03, 2017 Washington, D.C.

The White House Historical Association today released its fourth episode, “British Invasion to French Restoration” in The 1600 Sessions podcast series. This episode tells the dramatic story of the burning of the White House by the British in 1814. Released during the 200th anniversary of James and Elizabeth Monroe moving back into the White House, this episode also celebrates the restoration of the White House, which marked a high point in the U.S. cultural connection with France. 

Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews White House Historical Association chief historian and award-winning scholar Dr. Edward Lengel and association senior historian Dr. Matt Costello to provide a rich historical perspective on the time period. Their stories and anecdotes shine light on a low point in political relations with Great Britain and a productive and enlightening cultural exchange with France. 

Dr. Lengel describes the burning of the White House in 1814 as a strike to the symbols of the United States: “The British fully intended this as a humiliation. It was a controlled burning, it was intended in revenge for what we had done in the city of York in Canada. So they didn't just go wild and loot it, but they actually burned it…the British understood that this was more a symbolic heart of the nation, and that's why they attack it that summer in 1814.”

Dr. Costello sets the stage for the historic cultural encounters between France and the United States: “James and Elizabeth Monroe both understood that Paris in the late 18th and early 19th century is the cultural capital of the world… they also understood that at that time, France was a powerful nation, a nation to be respected, and in many ways they wanted to emulate that, whether it was in his presidency or through furnishing the White House.” 

Among these furnishings was a 53-piece suite of Bellangé furniture that Monroe acquired from his time as American Minister to France and shipped to the White House with a special appropriation from Congress. That furniture was placed in what today is the Blue Room of the White House. The Monroes had been enamored with French culture, and by bringing it into the White House, lifted the United States from the New World to the global stage. 

In this fascinating podcast series, White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin interviews luminaries, historians and eyewitnesses to history about America’s most famous residence and office – the White House. Each episode includes a prominent guest or guests to discuss varying facets of White House history, including insights from former staff and many other topical issues. 

The 1600 Sessions is available on iTunes, GooglePlay, SoundCloud, and Stitcher. To hear the full episode, visit The1600Sessions.org and learn more about White House history at WhiteHouseHistory.org.

For Media: B-roll footage of interview available for use upon request.

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About the white house historical association

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. She sought to inspire Americans, especially children, to explore and engage with American history and its presidents. In 1961, the White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion’s legacy for generations to come. Supported entirely by private resources, the Association’s mission is to assist in the preservation of the state and public rooms, fund acquisitions for the White House permanent collection, and educate the public on the history of the White House. Since its founding, the Association has given more than $45 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission. 

To learn more about the White House Historical Association, please visit WhiteHouseHistory.org

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