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Vilja Reads

I'm a student, so I don't have nearly as much time for leisure reading as I'd like. If I manage to read an entire course book instead of just the assigned chapters, I'll review that here, too.

Why Spencer Perceval Had To Die

Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister - Andro Linklater

In 1812, during a crucial period before war might be declared between Great Britain and the United States over British harassment of Atlantic trade, the British prime minister was shot in the House of Commons. The assassin was a gentleman, a merchant from Liverpool, who never tried to resist arrest. 


A lone nut, driven by a personal grievance, killed the man who was both Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Lord of the Treasury at a time when the king was mad and the prince regent weak; a man whose quest to choke out the slave trade had plunged Britain into depression and driven it to the very brink of war. 


Linklater's style is as dramatic as my own here, and his implication the same. There is some evidence that John Bellingham was financed, if not motivated, by an interested party. The story that unfolds paints a psychological portrait of the killer and the victim, as well as illuminating the political pressures and contentions of the time - a time when British economy was expanding rapidly after the Napoleonic wars had opened up the international waters and Britain possessed possibly the greatest navy in the world - an expansion fueled by slavery, slave-trading, and slavery-produced cheap goods. It was a testament to Spencer Perceval's entrenched political power that he managed to keep up his fight to stamp down on slavery for as long as he did. His followers did not. 


Linklater's style is engaging and entertaining, though it's a matter of taste whether one likes conspiracy theories and personal histories or a drier, more academic work. I'm not saying his research is faulty - I'm sure it's not. I was just a little but put off by the sensationalist handling of the subject. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was very informative on a number of points I hadn't considered before.