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6 of 6 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, but...
Published on May 18, 2012 by S Riaz

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is an odd book with entirely too much soul-gazing.
It's a superficial and sensational history of a complicated event, and in order to provide the necessary background, there's a lot of tension between the history and background (Orders in Council, slave trade, the politics that made Perceval PM) and conjecture and odd, sweeping statements.

The only British PM ever assassinated was poor Spencer Perceval, the...
Published 20 months ago by SCM


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die, May 18, 2012
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is an odd book with entirely too much soul-gazing., December 20, 2012
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SCM (Portlandia) - See all my reviews
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It's a superficial and sensational history of a complicated event, and in order to provide the necessary background, there's a lot of tension between the history and background (Orders in Council, slave trade, the politics that made Perceval PM) and conjecture and odd, sweeping statements.

The only British PM ever assassinated was poor Spencer Perceval, the family man, Evangelical-leaning Conservative stick-in-the-mud, on May 11, 1812. The assassin was John Bellingham, an accountant and would-be businessman with grievances against the government.

As a fiction editor, point of view errors drive me crazy. One place I never expect to see them is in a work of non-fiction. I don't ever want to read that someone was a "typically stubborn, flinty-souled Yankee trader" because that's a judgment, not an observation. (Also, that's my New England heritage being tossed around like a pejorative.)

Another statement -- "The conflict in John Bellingham's nature between the beautiful and the sublime became extreme" -- is not only ridiculous, it's all invention. Who knows what Bellingham had in his nature? In a work of non-fiction, I don't want to read conjecture. I want to read history. Facts. Sources.

Not soul-gazing.

There were enough minor errors, like describing the Prince Regent's wife Caroline as an attractive woman (she wasn't), or describing American settlers as "moving onto the prairies" that I found myself doubting other recitations of facts.

The idea that Bellingham wasn't a lone shooter is intriguing. If there's any real evidence for it, I didn't see it in this work. It could be that by the time I reached the end, I was doubting the veracity of everything I was reading (unless a direct quote).

The potential for a very interesting book was here -- it would have required more research, better editing, and better weaving together of the facts, as well as toning down the grandiose value judgments.

I did learn some new things, and the notes were useful. So there's that. I'd probably give this 2.5 stars, but am rounding up to 3
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good history and character study of Percival and the assassin, December 15, 2012
This review is from: Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister (Hardcover)
This doesn't justify its title. It's a very good history and character study combined with some rather useless speculation on a conspiracy theory about the assassination. It puts a face and personality on the relatively forgotten Spencer Percival. He was apparently a very capable administrator with a bright future. There is also an interesting, albeit less significant, look into the life, character and motivations of assassin John Bellingham.

The assassination of British PM Spencer Percival in May of 1812 is an underwritten episode in British history. The author cites public amnesia towards the memory of Percival. It was an interesting period involving wars against France and the USA as well as the slave trade and Luddite riots. Percival was a strong supporter of Wilberforce in opposition to the slave trade.
Orders in Council of 1807 initiated an embargo on Napoleonic Europe resulted in economic decline. Percival policies provoked the War of 1812 against the U.S. However, there does not appear to be any justification for the author's speculation that an American may have financed Bellingham's preparations for the assassination.

There's an especially good exposition of British trade activity involving Europe, the West Indies and the Americas. Cutting of the slave traffic along with the embargo resulted in a significant recession especially for the trading center of Liverpool. With some justification the general public appears to have blamed Percival for the economic downturn, resulting in celebrations over his death.

Linklater writes an interesting account of how Bellingham was cheated in business dealing and failed in his attempts to petition government and Prince Regent for redress. In contravention to legal advise Bellingham eschewed an insanity defense, claiming justification. The book criticizes the British legal establishment for accommodating a rush to judgment leaving questions unanswered. Linklater didn't need a Kennedy like speculation of a wider conspiracy and causes to justify writing the book. It's an interesting history of an important little known episode, but as a belated expose' it doesn't quite work.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, December 8, 2013
I found this book fascinating because it covers a little-known subject and wonderfully brings the characters to life, alongside creating a picture of the politics and political intrigues of the age. The notion that the murder was carried out as part of a conspiracy rings true, when considering the background details, and it provided a good deal of food for thought.
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Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister
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