The Cato Street Conspiracy

Plotting, counter-intelligence and the revolutionary tradition in Britain and Ireland

On 23 February 1820 a group of radicals were arrested in Cato Street off the Edgware Road in London. They were within 60 minutes of setting out to assassinate the British cabinet. Five of the conspirators were subsequently executed and another five were transported for life to Australia. The plotters were a mixture of English, Scottish and Irish tradesmen, and one was a black Jamaican. They were motivated by a desire to avenge the ‘Peterloo’ massacre and intended to declare a republic, which they believed would encourage popular risings in London and across Britain.  This volume of essays uses contemporary reports by Home Office spies and informers to assess the seriousness of the conspiracy. It traces the practical and intellectual origins of the plotters’ willingness to use violence; describes the links between Irish and British radicals who were willing to take up arms; makes a contribution to early black history in Britain; examines the European context to events, and follows the lives and careers of those plotters exiled to Australia. These well-written essays will find an appreciative audience among undergraduates, graduate students and scholars of British and Irish history and literature. The book will be of interest to those interested in black history, as well as the related fields of intelligence history and Strategic Studies. A significant contribution to our understanding of a particularly turbulent period of British history. An examination of a plot of February 1820 to assassinate the British cabinet and establish a British republic. The conspirators consisted of English, Scottish and Irish tradesmen and a black Jamaican. This book uses contemporary reports by Home Office spies and informers to assess the seriousness of the conspiracy. It traces the origins of the plotters’ willingness to use violence; describes the links between Irish and British radicals; examines early black history in Britain; and follows the fate of those plotters exiled to Australia.These well-written essays will find an appreciative audience among undergraduates, graduate students and scholars of British and Irish history and literature. The book will be of interest to those interested in Black History, as well as the related fields of intelligence history and Strategic Studies. A significant contribution to our understanding of a turbulent period of British history. If the Cato Street Conspiracy had been successful, Britain would have been proclaimed a republic by tradesmen of English, Scots, Irish and black Jamaican backgrounds. This book explains the conspiracy, and why you have never heard of it.

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‘The essays in The Cato Street Conspiracy present valuable new work on the international context and political repercussions of the Cato Street conspiracy. The essays by Chase, Hanley, and Murtagh are further useful as readings about the wider themes of four nations history, Black history, and Irish migrant history… This book of essays opens a series of windows on the post-Peterloo world of radical conspiracy, and is particularly strong on the Irish and Caribbean dimensions. At the same time, it opens a debate about the real strength of the English Jacobin tradition at the time of Cato Street.’
Reviews in History, Dr Robert Poole (University of Cumbria)
July 2020

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