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Shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize, and a Daily Telegraph and BBC History Magazine Book of the Year. On the night of 23 February 1820, twenty-five impoverished craftsmen assembled in an obscure stable in Cato Street, London, with a plan to massacre the whole British cabinet at its monthly dinner. The Cato Street Conspiracy was the most sensational of all plots aimed at the British state since Guy Fawkes' Gunpowder Plot of 1605. It ended in betrayal, arrest, and trial, and with five conspirators publicly hanged and decapitated for treason. Their failure proved the state's physical strength, and ended hopes of revolution for a century. Vic Gatrell explores this dramatic yet neglected event in unprecedented detail through spy reports, trial interrogations, letters, speeches, songs, maps, and images. Attending to the 'real lives' and habitats of the men, women, and children involved, he throws fresh light on the troubled and tragic world of Regency Britain, and on one of the most compelling and poignant episodes in British history.


‘In his gripping new book, Vic Gatrell rescues the Cato Street conspirators from “the enormous condescension of posterity”, and reconstructs in enthralling detail the world of low taverns, debtors’ prisons and radical extremism from which they came. This is a brilliantly written masterpiece that triumphantly succeeds in restoring humanity and dignity to its subjects.’

Richard J. Evans - author of The Pursuit of Power: Europe, 1815–1914

‘Conspiracy on Cato Street explores in gripping detail the plot of February 1820 to assassinate the whole cabinet and start a revolution the year after the Peterloo massacre. Gatrell sympathises as much as possible with the desperation the doomed plotters felt that drove them to such a decision. The plot was the most murderous for over two centuries - since the gunpowder plot - and here finds its perfect historian.'

Andrew Roberts Source: Books of the Year, BBC History Magazine

‘A finely researched account'

Source: Best 50 Books of 2022, Daily Telegraph

'Enriched by Gatrell’s observation that “the inequalities and deprivations that moved the conspirators, and the privileged interests and powers that contained them, still operate,” this is a fine-grained study of political extremism in action.'

Source: Publishers Weekly

‘Gatrell's intense study of the men's lives - and what brought them to believe that violently overthrowing the government could solve their problems - is forensic and vivid in its detail.’

Stephen Bates Source: BBC History Magazine

‘This is micro-history at its richest and its most penetrating. More than giving us a social history in a few lives, Gatrell has told us a human story with the depth of a novel.'

D. H. Robinson Source: The Critic

‘an engrossing study.’

Kathryn Hughes Source: Sunday Times

‘a panoramic and thrilling study of an overlooked part of British history.’

Catherine Ostler Source: Daily Telegraph

‘Gatrell asks all the right questions of his subject, and his answers are sound and illuminating.'

David Keymer Source: Library Journal [starred review]

‘Terrific … the richest account of the Cato Street conspiracy ever written.’

Marcus Nevitt Source: The Spectator

'Gatrell writes passionately as a radical historian championing the underdog and castigating inequality.'

William Anthony Hay Source: The Wall Street Journal

'… (a) gripping account.'

Source: History Today

'There is no better guide to metropolitan high and low life than Gatrell … [In] an enthralling classic of London history, [he] eschews what he sees as the stifling pieties of labour history in favour of individual character and lived detail, professing a Dickensian empathy for the 'muddled attitudes, slogans and resentments' of ordinary Londoners … Cato Street is underdog history at its purest.'

Robert Poole Source: Times Literary Supplement

'Vic Gatrell tells this sorry story with zest and sympathy … Conspiracy on Cato Street follows the trail of his Hanging Tree (1994), City of Laughter (2006) and The First Bohemians (2013) in its capturing of Regency London in all its gaiety, violence, sexual sprawl and, above all, searing poverty. His trigger finger trembles with passion as he takes aim at the romantic curricles-and-crinolines view of the period … Gatrell says at the beginning of his salutary and often startling account that ‘a book of this kind cannot help speaking to the present.'

Ferdinand Mount Source: London Review of Books

‘Vic Gatrell is that rarest of people; an academic historian steeped in the archives who can write the most beautiful prose. Conspiracy on Cato Street brings his trademark erudition and style to bear … [in this] wonderful book.'

Jason McElligott Source: Irish Times

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