Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die

  • by Andro Linklater
  • Narrated by Stephen Rashbrook
  • 8 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

On the afternoon of May 11, 1812, Spencer Perceval, the all-powerful prime minister of Great Britain, was fatally shot at short range in the lobby of Parliament by John Bellingham, a Liverpool businessman. Perceval polarized public opinion: Revered by some and hated by others for his fight against the lucrative slave trade, he domineeringly kept Britain at war against Napoléon and was driving her into war with the United States despite the huge economic drain of each, raising taxes to new heights to finance his decisions. Bellingham was not alone in blaming Perceval and his government for their ruinous policies; indeed, he claimed to have killed Perceval "as a matter of justice," and believed he would not only be exonerated, but also applauded for his action. But he was not to enjoy relief; within a week, granted the briefest of trials that trampled his right to due process, he was hanged.
In Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die, Andro Linklater examines the assassination against the dramatic events of the time with the eye and insight of the finest detective.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Important History - Well Told

This book is of importance to our understanding of the modern world, and sets the early 19th Century in the context of the birth of both a developing Europe, and the new United States of America. Since we only had the one Prime Minister assassinated, it is perhaps interesting that he is so seldom mentioned. I was drawn to this book by the chapter on John Bellingham, in Kelly Grovier's The Gaol, and cannot say that I am disappointed. Stephen Rashbrook reads very effectively and engagingly, and the mystery of how Bellingham, penniless by the end of February 1812, had the cash to pay for lodgings, good clothing, and the weapon he used to shoot Spencer Perceval, well told. Perhaps the real takeaway message of this book is the is the force of Anglican Evangelicalism, and the meaning of Providence in 1812, and how followers of this branch of Christianity tried to comprehend the loss of a Prime Minister they valued highly.
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- Jeanette

A fascinating insight into a unique event

I chose this book as there was a story in my family that one of my ancestors was standing beside Spencer Perceval when he was assassinated. And he was as is documented in this pacey and interesting account of the event. It is a fascinating investigation into the perpetrator's possible motives and they emerge as a much more complex than was supposed at the time. It was a turbulent period in British history both economically and politically with war with America looming and pressure to outlaw the transportation of slaves: a move vigorously opposed by a powerful lobby of merchants.
I had earlier listened to William's Hague's masterly biography of William Willberforce, and was pleased to find that the present book complements the former in giving a different slant to the struggle.
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- Kirstine

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-05-2012
  • Publisher: Audible Studios