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The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies Paperback – September 1, 1989

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Editorial Reviews


"An unalloyed delight." -- Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Hanchett [spoils] a lot of fun for the crackpots, the paranoids, and the not-so-artful deceivers who have inhabited the Lincoln assassination field." -- History Book Club Review. "Sketches the fevered, anti-Lincoln atmosphere in which Booth acted, and offers the most plausible account we are ever likely to have of his real motivation." -- American Heritage

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252013611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252013614
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,501,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Scott E. Rosenau on March 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
Since the day Lincoln was assassinated, many theories have emerged about who was the mastermind behind the plot. Among the accused have been members of the Confederate government, including Jefferson Davis, the Catholic Church and members of Lincoln's own Cabinet.
Hanchett examines these conspiracy theories and the people who put forward the theories in an attempt to find out if a higher authority, civil or religious, ordered John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators to kill Lincoln and members of his Cabinet. By examining each theory individually as well as the motives behind those who suggested the theories, Hanchett does an excellent job of refuting some of the more unlikely theories.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Berke on June 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hanchett's book was probably better when first published than it is today. It is certainly not a bad book, but it was written at a time when, it seems, not many historians had turned to the topic. We are now blessed with a multitude of well-researched books on all aspects of the Lincoln assassination (from a compilation of eyewitness accounts in "We Saw Lincoln Shot", to the popular "Manhunt" account of Booth's flight, to other excellent books like "Blood on the Moon" and "American Brutus" - I am neglecting many others, but the point is the last two decades have seen a rebirth in interest in the topic).

Hanchett 'cleans house', in a way, by chronicling the popular, controversial, and outlandish theories and conspiracies that had dominated the prior 100 years and change. Particular emphasis was paid to the likes of Otto Eisenschiml and his 'Stanton' conspiracy theory, the theories about Jefferson and the Canadian Confederate agents directing Booth, some strange theories involving Lincoln himself (including one bizarre tale of Lincoln purportedly telling a former Supreme Court Justice, who was a Confederate, that he wanted him to come back to help legally defeat the 14th amendment), and the 'Catholic connection' conspiracy theory, among others. One of the strengths of this book is the way he tackles these theories, details the people on who started them, the milieu in which they were born, and then the ways in which they are found wanting. He does not tell the full story of either the assassination or the escape and capture (a point he makes clear at the outset), thus this is a poor book with which to begin learning about the events of April 1865, but it is invaluable if one wants to look back and deepen one's understanding of the progression of thought and the whys and hows of some of the more pervasive myths.

Succinct, clear, and well-researched, Hanchett has written a book that any Lincoln/Booth aficionado should read at some point.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Randy Keehn VINE VOICE on January 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
My son bought me this book when he was at Ford's Theater because he knew I am a history buff. I'm thankful for the gift although I mistakenly let it sit on the shelf a bit too long. The author, William Hanchett is up front about what the purpose of the book is. His is not an account of the event so much as a focus on the political passions of the times and an analysis of the accounts of the assassination from the time of the event up to modern times. Following along those lines, this is a very good book. The author deserves credit for not wallowing in academic prose; "The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies" is a very readable book. Hanchett evaluates the various conspiracy theories that emerged from such a monumental event in US History and there are some interesting theories out there. Just the other day a learned friend of mine commented about Edwin Stanton's likely involvement in Lincoln's death. I ought to let him read this book. Then again, maybe not since conspiracy theories make for more interesting history. However, I'm glad I read this book. I rated it "Good" because it IS good. I've read too many "Very Good" and "Outstanding" books to rate everything else that way. Likewise, I've read enough academic prose to know how even the most compelling events in history can be a bore to read about. The bottom line on "The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies" is; if you want to know about Lincoln's Assassination, this is the place to start and, depending on your attraction to conspiracy theories, it may also be the place to end.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By adorian on February 24, 2012
Format: Paperback
I was surprised and pleased at how serious and scholarly this work is. I was afraid of more lurid sensationalism. The author closely examines each of the possible alternative theories of "Who Really Killed Lincoln and Why?" and easily debunks them, leaving us with the traditional theory of Booth and a few weak co-conspirators acting on their own without higher control or approval. Over the years, I had read the other major theories (VP Johnson engineered it! Stanton masterminded it!), but this is the first time that I got all of the theories in one book and, more importantly, got the logical evidence against them.

Some might complain at the author's scholarly overkill (too many footnotes, too much repetition), but that's exactly what is needed. Did Booth escape the burning barn so that a body double was killed and buried? Easily debunked. Were the Jesuits pulling the strings to get rid of Lincoln? Easily debunked. What about those pages ripped out of Booth's diary? Easily explained.

People who are so eager to accept any conspiracy ("If it could have happened this way, it must have happened this way!") need to read this book and accept the fact that sometimes the most plausible explanation is the true explanation. Everything about this book is fair and level-headed. Nothing wild and sensational here. The prose is cold and clear and lucid. It's hard not to accept the author's main points. It's well worth reading.
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