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.
©2012 Andro Linklater (P)2012 Audible Ltd
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Jeanette on 15-05-12

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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13 of 13 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Kirstine on 24-05-12

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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12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer on 18-06-12

A great insight to political greed and obstinacy

This book gives an insight to the history of the early 1800s and shows why the 1812 war between UK, Canada, the Indian Confederacy and the USA occurred. It is also a story of political greed, obstinacy and lust for power which led to the assassination of a British prime minister.
A most enjoyable read.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Sebastian on 12-06-16

Slow start but worth reading.

This book filled a knowledge gap for me I knew nothing of British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval. How his intransigent evangelism (which I was surprised to learn was not an exclusively American phenomenon) was key to the abolition to the slave trade by the British -- certainly a positive step for mankind-- , but also to the persecution of the Irish as Catholics, the continued presence of Wellington in Spain (I am a Francophile) and to the war of 1812.
The core of the story revolves around the assassin, but I shan't spoil that here. A most interesting part for me was the author's exploration of the "cui Bono" (Who profited). Sticking to the documented plausible and avoiding going full mad cap conspirationist.

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