Andro Linklater was the acclaimed author of Measuring America, The Fabric of America, An Artist in Treason, and Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die. He lived in England.
Barely two centuries ago, most of the world's productive land still belonged either communally to traditional societies or to the higher powers of monarch or church. But that pattern, and the ways of life that went with it, were consigned to history as a result of the most creative - and, at the same time, destructive - cultural force in the modern era: the idea of individual, exclusive ownership of land. This notion laid waste to traditional communal civilisations, displacing entire peoples from their homelands, and brought into being a unique concept of individual freedom and a distinct form of representative government and democratic institutions. Other great civilizations, in Russia, China, and the Islamic world, evolved very different structures of land ownership, and thus very different forms of government and social responsibility. The seventeenth-century English surveyor William Petty was the first man to recognise the connection between private property and free-market capitalism; the American radical Wolf Ladejinsky redistributed land in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea after the Second World War to make possible the emergence of Asian tiger economies. Through the eyes of these remarkable individuals and many more, including Chinese emperors and German peasants, Andro Linklater here presents the evolution of land ownership to offer a radically new view of mankind's place on the planet.
On 11 May 1812 Spencer Perceval, the British Prime Minister, was fatally shot at close range in the lobby of the House of Commons. In the confused aftermath, his assailant, John Bellingham, made no effort to escape. A week later, before his motives could be examined, he was tried and hanged. Here, for the first time, the historian Andro Linklater looks past the conventional image of Bellingham as a 'deranged businessman' and portrays him as an individual, driven by personal anxieties and by the raw emotions that convulsed his home town of Liverpool. But as the evidence accumulates, a wider, darker picture emerges - John Bellignham was not alone in hating the prime minister. Two hundred years later, Andro Linklater examines the ecidence and brilliantly deconstructs the assassination of Spencer Perceval - the only British Prime Minister ever to have suffered that fate - to offer a fresh perspective on Britain and the Western world at a critical moment in history.