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Fenian Fire: The British Government Plot to Assassinate Queen Victoria Paperback – 8 Apr 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New Ed edition (8 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007104820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007104826
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 500,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Christy Campbell has come up with a genuine historical scoop… In a superb piece of historical detective work, Campbell has pieced together every element of the conspiracy on both sides of the Atlantic, from the prime minister's house in St James's to the Islington garret where the "dynamitards" were arrested in November 1887… It was a classic case of an agent provocateur sting.' Andrew Roberts, The Times

'Campbell has uncovered an extraordinary web of personal and political intrigue… an enthralling tale… the pace never slackens… Particularly good is his account of the origins of Irish revolutionary nationalism… To tell this involved story against the backdrop of bureaucratic bickering, revolutionary intrigue and clandestine meetings between spies and informers is both original and clever. Campbell is making this type of breezy investigative history his own.' Andrew Lycett, Sunday Times

'The "jubilee plot" is such a bizarre episode that I would regard it as the product of a febrile imagination had Christy Campbell not documented sufficient evidence to remove all reasonable doubt… From Mexico City to Liverpool and from the House of Commons to Chicago coroner's court, the story moves at the pace of the best sort of adventure story. All the Boy's Own Paper ingredients are there… colourful characters and compelling story… Its account of Fenian organisation and activity makes a real contribution to nineteenth-century history.' Roy Hattersley, Observer

From the Back Cover

Of the seven attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria during her long reign, four of them were of Irish origin. The most serious of all was the 'Jubilee Plot', a conspiracy apparently hatched in New York by the Fenian Brotherhood to blow up the Queen, her family and most of the British Cabinet with dynamite at the great service of thanksgiving to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of her accession, held at Westminster Abbey in 1887.

The story was a public sensation at the time. The empire held its breath as Irish-American bombers, who waged a five-year campaign of dynamite attacks against British cities, seemed set to bring off the most spectacular outrage imaginable…

Now in a masterpiece of historical investigation, the author Christy Campbell has unearthed the facts behind the most serpentine of all the attempts on Queen Victoria's life, and – using recently declassified Foreign Office Secret files, among many other archives – reveals for the first time the true instigator at the heart of the government. For the conspiracy's real target was never the Queen. It was one of her turbulent (Irish) subjects.

At the centre of an intricate web of plot and counterplot, involving Irish Home Rule politicians, feuding terrorist organisations based in America, rival British secret policemen and scheming cabinet ministers, was the ambiguous figure of General F.F.Millen – Irish-American rebel, soldier-of-fortune, journalist and informer extraordinaire. But his role in the Jubilee Plot was never revealed in the subsequent parliamentary investigation, and the historic significance of the plot can now be unravelled in all its fascinating detail.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bernard Porter on 1 Nov. 2013
Format: Paperback
I haven't read the book yet, but it's marketed as a revelation ('the author reveals for the first time...') and it isn't. It's recounted in my The Origins of the Vigilant State (1987), pp. 88-9. This account may have unearthed new material to elaborate it, and could well be written more entertainingly than my book - I'll see when I get round to it - but it's dishonest to publicize it in this way. Of course the publisher rather than the author may be responsible for this.
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By John Palser on 2 Jan. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Item exactly as described and delivered very promptly
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Diarmuid Ó Tuama on 29 April 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent read. A black op. exposed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would recommend any student of Irish history to get it.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nuala White on 17 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is well researched and written. It provided a lot of information I needed for a history research project.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The Dirty War 4 Aug. 2003
By John J. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The world's only global superpower is faced with terrorists in its greatest city, trying to destroy its major landmarks. These foreigners were born in one nation, a backward, oppressed land with an alien religion which, however, is of great geographic and strategic importance to the superpower. They are financed from another country, an immensely wealthy, so-called ally and friend of the superpower. To defeat these desperate men and their heinous ends, the superpower must engage them on their own terms, and fight a dirty war, which will prove corrosive to freedom and democracy at home, and only increase the hatred of the foreign land.
The United States in 2001? Er, no, it's Great Britain in the 1880s, faced with Irish-American dynamiters who attacked Scotland Yard, the House of Commons, and, in spectacularly unsuccessful fashion, London Bridge. The British response to this threat is like John LeCarre rewritten by Flann O'Brien. The chief counter-terrorist securocrat in Gladstone's Liberal government, Jenkinson, is a convinced Home Ruler. With the aide of his double agents and informers within the Irish-American organizations, he sets a phony bomb plot to assassinate Queen Victoria in motion. By demonstrating the danger of Irish extremism, he hopes to convince British opinion of the need to conciliate moderate Irish nationalists with Home Rule. However, Gladstone's government falls, and Lord Salisbury's Tories take over. Vehemently opposed to Home Rule, Salisbury sees an opportunity to use the phony bomb plot to discredit Parnell's party, by linking Irish terrorists with Irish parlimentarians. Meanwhile, another Irish-American faction in Chicago decides to set up its own Jubilee plot, this time for real...
Fenian Fire is an engaging and original history which (quite deliberately) reads like a thriller. I found it fascinating stuff, but like the spymasters and their convoluted and perplexing plot(s), the narrative occasionally threatens to run out of control.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Special Branch duplicity 27 Aug. 2010
By ewaffle - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
There were seven attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria during her long reign; four of them were of Irish origin. The most serious of all was the "Jubilee Plot", a conspiracy apparently hatched in New York by the Fenian Brotherhood to blow up the Queen, her family and most of the British Cabinet with dynamite at the great service of thanksgiving to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her accession, held at Westminster Abbey in June 1887. The plot was "uncovered" by Scotland Yard with just a few days to go. Several of the bombers were caught, tried and sentenced to penal servitude for life. But - warned off in time - the master bomber escaped to America. Using declassified Foreign Office secret files, the author discloses the secret at the heart of the British counter-intelligence operation against militant Irish nationalists: the entire conspiracy was masterminded for its own reasons by a clandestine British agency reporting directly to the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury.
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Misleading, overcomplex, anti-Irish 30 Nov. 2009
By Tony Smyth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Firstly, I cannot understand how this book got good reviews, based on the blurb on the book's cover. Plus, the photo of Queen Victoria on the cover is misleading: there never really was serious plot to kill her. The book is more to do with Irish attempts to secure Home Rule legally, the efforts of some Irish-Americans to force it illegally, mostly through the inept use of dynamite, and the efforts of the British secret service to thwart their efforts. Much of the book concerns the attempts by the Times of London and some in the British government to destroy the career of Parnell, leader of the Home Rule party, by lies and fabrication. Nothing to do with assassination. The subtitle 'The British government plot to assassinate Queen Victoria' is not reflected within the covers of this dull tome.

The first problem with this book is that it doesnt manage its large cast of characters well, is dreary and overcomplex, and in the end nothing much happens.

Worse though is the fact that the book is blatently anti-Irish. The English side, many of whom are forging documents and attempting to destroy the powerful Irish politician Parnell's career are portrayed as 'elegant', appear 'supremely aloof', exhibit 'gallantry', some are the 'flower of England's nobility', take 'discreet precautions', have 'discreet luncheons' and receive 'discreet hints of a knighthood'(Campbell is very fond of that word).
Meanwhile The Land League to a man are thought of as 'simian brutes', the Irish-American's 'squabbling delegations boozing and conspiring', 'boozily proclaiming dynamite vengeance', uttering 'shifty denials' and attending 'a grisly affair of bogus backslapping mixed with murderous threats'. The Tories get into government and are then 'disencumbered at last of the loathsome necessity of fawning on the Irish'. Lord Salisbury equates the Irish with Hotentots. Talk about cartoon-like portrayal!!

There is no place in this book for the larger context: THE FAMINE! A time just prior to this when a million Irish died of starvation. English absenteee landlords continued to export food from Ireland as bodies lay unburied by the roadside. At least another million Irish were forced to emmigrate, many dying on the 'coffin ships' en route for America and Canada. The Famine also destroyed the Irish language as the major language of communication in Ireland. The Irish in America plotting against the British were the sons and daughters of these same immigrants. Is it any wonder that SOME of the Irish would want to use dynamite to get the British out of Ireland and get some measure of justice? The Land League was formed, and boycotting introduced, in the 1880s to stop British landlords from throwing destitute Irish peasants out of their wretched houses when they could no longer afford to pay the rent and then ripping the rooves of the houses so that they were unable to return.

But very little of this background is contained in this extremely biased book. Much is made of the 'simian' Irish efforts to force change by violent means, yet not a word of censure for the 'elegant' English who try to destroy a democratically elected politician and his party, and waged a years-long vendetta against him in the Times based on lies, inuendo and forged documents.

I am so glad I bought this book secondhand and that none of my money went to this British establishment arselicker. Caveat emptor.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Fenian's Fire meets Tom Clancy 26 Aug. 2003
By "lindawhitford" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I had no idea that Queen Victoria had been the subject of a serious assassination plot. Sure she had had potshots taken at her but this was SERIOUS. The Fenians (Irish) were out to get her - or were they? In a style reminiscent of Tom Clancy, Christy Campbell reveals the characters and plot. A criticism of the book is that the story is not linear and jumps around. The historical characters are also brought in at different times to suit the author and do not come into the story in a logical fashion. Or not to me anyway.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
For the scholar, not the layman 10 Jun. 2007
By John Glines - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Although subtitled "The British Government Plot to Assassinate Queen Victoria", this book is really about the fight for Irish home rule from 1858 to 1891. If that's a subject that's of interest to you and you like your history full of facts, dates, names and places, this book may be for you, but I found the going tough and eventually was skimming more than reading. It's a scholarly piece of work, but I prefer my history a lot less dry and more digested.
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