Jonathan Sumption

‘Can One Save a King Who is on Trial?’

A History of Political Trials from Charles I to Saddam Hussein

By

Peter Lang 315pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

What is a political trial? Is it a trial for a political offence, such as holding the wrong opinions? A trial initiated, perhaps for an ordinary criminal offence, but for political motives? A trial in which the judges are subject to political manipulation? John Laughland’s definition has all of these elements, but something else besides. This is a history of a particular kind of political trial: a trial which follows a political revolution, and is designed by the new regime to mark the passing of the old. Laughland is probably right to say that the type was inaugurated by the tribunals which condemned Charles I of England and Louis XVI of France. But these were mere prototypes. The great age of the political trial was the twentieth century, the era of Nuremberg, Pétain, Ceauşescu, Honecker, Milošević, and the many obscurer figures who perished on the orders of improvised tribunals in the aftermath of the wars, coups and revolutions of that dismal age.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Something of an 'eccentric billionaire’s hobby': reviews 'The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and… ,
    • "At the age of fifteen, drunk on stolen Chardonnay or stoned on pot at a swimming party, the thoughts that come imm… ,
    • For the latest Bookends, here's Alan Taylor musing on his stint as an assistant librarian. ,
    • A ‘pretentious ass and impotent arriviste’ who surrounded himself with ‘degenerates, hooligans, childish layabouts,… ,
    • . reviews 'Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life' by ,
    • "As Beevor shows, it was one of the most daring, dangerous and fiercely fought operations of the whole war. It was… ,
    • "The characters are very rich and very male, with astronomical ambitions. The potted biographies in this book sugge… ,