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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die
On Monday 11th May, 1812, John Bellingham headed to the House of Commons to assassinate the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval. He was late. As we later learn, John Bellingham was a man for whom things rarely went to plan. However, he did kill the PM as he headed into the entrance lobby and was immediately seized. I have to admit that I knew nothing about this crime,...
Published on 18 May 2012 by S Riaz

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Accuracy?
The story is a good read but all relies on Elisha Peck and Anson Greene Phelps being the bad guys that funded the plan. However, they formed their partnership well after the assassination also Peck was born in 1789 and not 1781 [...]. So in 1801 when he "inscribed the name of Peck & Phelps in the minute book of the American Chamber of Commerce" (p.200) he would have...
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die, 18 May 2012
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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On Monday 11th May, 1812, John Bellingham headed to the House of Commons to assassinate the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval. He was late. As we later learn, John Bellingham was a man for whom things rarely went to plan. However, he did kill the PM as he headed into the entrance lobby and was immediately seized. I have to admit that I knew nothing about this crime, but the author recreates both the murder and the times with great detail in this fascinating account of the assassination of a British Prime Minister.

Spencer Perceval was Prime Minister during a turbulent time. After the French Revolution, Napoleon was waging war in Europe. A naval blockade had been imposed on France; the US and the French had their own embargos. Trade worldwide had slowed to a trickle and there was economic recession, unemployment, social distress and the threat of war. Perceval was a man of strong beliefs, who opposed the slave trade and believed in respectable public and private behaviour during the reign of a notoriously dissolute Prince Regent. Happily married with many children, Perceval was respected by his peers and loved by his family.

This book looks at the aftermath of the assassination, how it was perceived in the country, the trial of Bellingham and his reasons for wanting to kill the PM. We are taken from trading in Archangel, to slave traders in Liverpool, through the lives of both Bellingham and Perceval, examining who benefited from the removel of the Prime Minister, what motives there could be, looking at Luddites, radicals, Catholics and slave trade abolition along the way. This really is a very well written, informative and interesting read, which examines the consequences of Perceval's death and finishes by telling us what happened to all the people involved in the events surrounding the assassination. Lastly, I read the kindle edition of this book and the illustrations were included.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten men, 11 Jun 2013
This review is from: Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister (Hardcover)
Spencer Perceval has been relegated to a pub quiz question - who is the only Prime Minister to have been assassinated? Many people are unaware of the fact. This book tries to right that and gives an impressive commentary of the events that occurred in the House of Commons in 1812. We hear about Perceval's autocratic Premiership and the travails of his assassin, John Bellingham - a tragically flawed character who blamed the government for his business failings and imprisonment in Russia. Linklater offers something new by digging into how Bellingham managed to fund his three-month stay in London prior to the assassination and suggests that he was funded by anti-Perceval interests who hoped to bring down the Prime Minister - although how far they were aware of Bellingham's ultimate intentions, rather than attacking the government in court, is unclear. Well-written, easy to follow, this is an excellent accessible history of a mostly forgotten subject.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 26 Jan 2013
This review is from: Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister (Hardcover)
Fascinating, the most interesting non-fictional work I have read in ages. Like most people, I knew very little about Spencer Percival or his assassin, but this author brings them to life brilliantly. I've never been able to finish any book about the assassination of JFK - but I loved this one.
Percival was a contradictory character. He was doing all he could to end the slave trade, and apparently, his murder meant that forty thousand extra slaves were transported across the ocean each year. That alone is enough reason for condemning it. Yet the common people loathed him, and he was also hated by some very rich and ruthless men. Bellingham insisted, no doubt truthfully, that he acted alone. Yet if he had been allowed to live longer he might, like Oswald, have parted with some interesting information.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Accuracy?, 14 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister (Hardcover)
The story is a good read but all relies on Elisha Peck and Anson Greene Phelps being the bad guys that funded the plan. However, they formed their partnership well after the assassination also Peck was born in 1789 and not 1781 [...]. So in 1801 when he "inscribed the name of Peck & Phelps in the minute book of the American Chamber of Commerce" (p.200) he would have been 12. Phelps was born in 1781 but even he would have only been 20 and was probably still making saddles in Hartford where he stayed until 1815. Reference to the Phelps Peck story can be found in Cleland, Robert Glass (1952). A History of Phelps Dodge. New York: Alfred A Knopf. ASIN B0007DMY86. Dodge, Phyllis B (June 1987). Tales of the Phelps Dodge Family. New York: New York Historical Society. ISBN 978-9998263864. Lowitt, Richard (1954). A Merchant Prince of the Nineteenth Century. Columbia University Press. ASIN B001DJ0E5S. and many on line references.

Still, there is much to enjoy in the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The resurrection of the unknown!, 15 Mar 2014
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I first came to know the name of Spencer Perceval while reading an excellent biography of George Canning (by Wendy Hinde) some years ago. I'd never heard of Spencer Perceval up until that point, especially not as Britain's only assassinated prime minister. Subsequent reading about the Napoleonic wars had shed some light on his career and death at the hands of a bankrupted "deranged" merchant in 1812, a few weeks before Wellington's famous victory of Salamanca. All of this additional background information left me with a new appreciation of a forgotten actor in Britain's long and proud history but such was the scant detail that Perceval's "humanity" and contribution to history remained as elusive as possible. After scouring the internet for a specialised biography (second-hand or new) came up a blank, Amazon directed me to Linklater's work which I subsequently purchased on Kindle earlier this week. I had read some of the reviews that spoke about the errors and the stretch in believable conspiracy theories that had too much of a US (or X-Files) flavour but in the absence of anything else I decided it was worth a punt. My conviction was not disappointed. Linklater's examination of Perceval and Bellingham was extremely interesting and at times convincing. He acknowledges that his assertions are stretched but he has attempted to resolve the "mystery" with the best and most recent evidence available, and in the absence of an alternate theory then he should be given credit. Both protagonists have been written out of history and that is fact so Linklater's revival is timely and justified. The threads of the conspiracy, if there was in fact one, are at time difficult to follow but the gaps in the history invite supposition but there is a need to provide a more fulsome explanation to account for Britain's first an only "political killing". The trade arguments are most likely one true explanation but if Bellingham did have a sponsor, and the London payments certainly suggest he did, this part of the story will probably remain hidden. Certainly, the extant, almost throwaway explanations for the killing, namely that Bellingham was some crazed bankrupt do not hold true any longer. Linklater's account is a promising start to what should spur on further investigation and I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand who Perceval was and what forces his personality unleashed on the world of the early nineteenth century.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost, but not quite, plausible..., 8 Aug 2013
By 
Mr. A. Weston (Chessington, Surrey) - See all my reviews
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Bellingham's assassination of him is probably about the only thing that people know about Spencer Perceval, so the sections of this book that investigate his Perceval's family life, political career and religious/moral convictions is welcome. It's not Linklater's aim to provide a full biography of Perceval (he admits that himself) so obviously this section's not as thorough as it could be, but it's interesting and well-researched. The parts on Bellingham's background are equally meticulous and I'd imagine had to be done from scratch, making them particularly impressive. I'm even prepared to overlook the rendering of John Gladstones as "John Gladstone" - his son, William, the Prime Minister, was the first to not use the "s" routinely.

Unfortunately the book's main argument - that Peck & Phelps organised the death of Perceval - is little more than conjecture. Linklater is able to produce a case, but not one that would very likely stand up in court. The main thrust of the argument seems to be that Peck & Phelps would benefit most from Perceval's death - or, more accurately, from the changes that would follow Perceval's death. This may be true, but there are two very important problems. Firstly, Peck and Phelps could not guarantee the changes that did follow the assassination. They benefitted, but to organise a high-profile murder on a hunch would be a very rash act.

Secondly, simply because someone benefits from a death it doesn't make them a suspect. Following the Ripper murders in London, a wide-sweeping series of social developments, such as gas lighting, slum clearances and better policing were pushed into the East End, years before they would have been otherwise and dramatically improving the lives of the residents. But there is nothing to suggest that William Booth and the Salvation Army brutally butchered prostitutes just to achieve their agenda. It seems to me to be equally far-fetched to suggest Peck & Phelps were involved in Perceval's killing.

Some would say that this leaves unanswered issues about the killing, such as how Bellingham could support himself in London despite being essentially broke. The most straightforward solutions probably work here. Either Bellingham persuaded someone that he would be getting compensation (legally) shortly and they advanced him cash, or he was advanced cash by a trading house on the basis that he was going to London to conduct business. It's not my intention to involve myself in a cold case, so I'll stop the speculation there.

In short, it's an entertaining read but in the final analysis, I can't believe it's true. I'd give it three-and-a-half stars, rather than three, if I could.

Just as a final afterthought, several of the quotes about how great this book is that you see on the Amazon page actually refer to a different book by Linklater, so just watch out there!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly misleading title, 17 July 2013
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This is a very interesting historical record of the times, and the causes of discord both locally and internationally. It deals with an era which is often forgotten by history, but which is pivotal to many of our present problems and situations. However, the title is somewhat misleading. The death of Spencer Perceval was something of a turning point, but the country, and the world, would have gone on if it had not happened. The really fascinating question is, what sort of world would we be living in now?
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great book, 27 July 2013
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Vwilson - See all my reviews
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brilliant service as is the book, no hassle, no waiting and a good price. Husband is already 1/2 way through
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just not very interesting., 14 May 2013
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The information in the book could have been condensed into a pamphlet or article. The background on Spencer Percival and his assassin is interesting enough, but after that there is considerable repetition regarding John Bellingham's attempts to gain redress from the British government for his financial loss, and endless returns to the international situation and the blockade of France which Linklater tries to link to the murder.

Linklater seems to postulate that there was more to the murder of Percival than the official version. This relies on two rather shaky pillars; that there was widespread celebration of the death of Percival; and an examination of the "cui bono?" argument. I would point out that in some quarters there seemed some widespread rejoicing about the death of Mrs. Thatcher, but no one has so far advanced a theory that she was actually murdered! More seriously, if the best an author can come up with is the who benefits from his death argument, then you know there's not much to it - that way lies the Oliver Stone JFK conspiracy theories and the "did the American's plan 9-11 for their own ends" nonsense and the like.

I wondered why there has not been much written on the Spencer Percival assassination before considering the industry generated by say the Lincoln and JFK deaths. Now I know. It's just not very interesting.
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