Conspiracy on Cato Street: A Tale of Liberty and Revolution in Regency London

Cambridge Univ. Jun. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9781108838481. $34.95. HIST
On February 23, 1820, twenty-five impoverished craftsmen met in a stable in Cato Street in London to finalize plans to assassinate the entire British cabinet at its monthly dinner. The plans never went anywhere. Spies had already infiltrated their group. They were arrested before the plot took off, ending in the trial and execution of five conspirators. The five were among the last to be beheaded in England and the last to be executed for treason until 1916 and the Irish Troubles. Gatrell (history, Cambridge Univ.; The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People) is a pioneer in the history of crime and punishment and scrupulously thorough in his treatment of a little-known event that didn’t go far but showed the depths of popular discontent in Regency England. Though haphazard and incompetently executed, the conspiracy was the last serious attempt at violent rebellion in an England cowed by the state’s monopoly of suppression, Gatrell argues. His book is copiously illustrated and includes 12George Cruikshank drawings and Théodore Gericault’s pen and ink sketch of the executions.
VERDICT Gatrell asks all the right questions of his subject, and his answers are sound and illuminating. Of equal pleasure for academics and lay readers.
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