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Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die

The Assassination of a British Prime Minister

Andro Linklater

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01 July 2012
On 11 May 1812 Spencer Perceval, the British Prime Minister, was fatally shot at close range in the lobby of the House of Commons. In the confused aftermath, his assailant, John Bellingham, made no effort to escape. A week later, before his motives could be examined, he was tried and hanged.

Here, for the first time, the historian Andro Linklater looks past the conventional image of Bellingham as a 'deranged businessman' and portrays him as an individual, driven by the anxieties of his family life, by his yearning for respectability and by the raw emotions that convulsed his home town of Liverpool. But as the evidence accumulates, a wider, darker picture emerges. The wildly unpopular Perceval dominated political life as both Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer. He, above all, was responsible for oppressing Luddite protestors, for Britain's naval blockade of Napoleonic France, for risking war with the United States. And, almost single-handedly, he was crushing Liverpool's illegal slave-trade.

John Bellingham was not alone in hating the prime minister. But did he act alone when he shot Spencer Perceval? And if not, who aided him? Two hundred years later, Andro Linklater examines Bellingham's personal records, his wife's letters and the reports of the Bow Street Runners, London's first detective agency, uncovering strange payments made to the murderer and an untouched historical trail. Catching the threads of conspiracy amid the fevered tone of an age of intense debate over slavery, security of the state and personal liberty, Linklater brilliantly deconstructs the assassination of Spencer Perceval - the only British Prime Minister ever to have suffered that fate - to offer a fresh perspective on Britain and the Western world at a critical moment in history.
By:   Andro Linklater
Imprint:   Bloomsbury
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm,  Spine: 29mm
Weight:   600g
ISBN:   9781408828403
ISBN 10:   1408828405
Pages:   304
Publication Date:   01 July 2012
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Out of Print
Author Website:   http://www.bloomsbury.com/Authors/details.aspx?tpid=3273

Andro Linklater is the author of Measuring America: How An Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy, The Fabric of America: How Our Borders and Boundaries Shaped the Country and Forged Our National Identity, and An Artist in Treason: The Extraordinary Double Life of General James Wilkinson. He lives in England.

Reviews for Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister

[A] wonderful and fascinating new book... It deserves to be a classic, plunged into the American reader's consciousness as firmly as the iron spikes or the witness trees at the edges of the maps it so splendidly describes. Simon Winchester, Boston Globe on Measuring America [Andro Linklater] has the talent not just to let us know how things work, but to make us want to know. He encloses his specifics inside generalities inside universals, as if they were nested Russian dolls [providing] a magical mystery tour that leaves the reader exhilarated by unexpected connections...Throughout the book, Mr. Linklater has allowed his humans wonderfully to subvert his measurings. New York Times on Measuring America In Measuring America, Linklater traces with unusual elegance and a keen wit the epic story of measuring our nation, charting the process by which, with each length of the surveyor's chain, new states were literally bought into being...remarkable. Los Angeles Times on Measuring America

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