Sir Roger Casement never deserved to hang

Telling the story of Sir Roger Casement’s life is a challenge for any biographer. In the land of his birth, he is remembered as a national hero. His remains lie in the Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin beside the graves of Daniel O’Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell. He is there because he was hanged in Pentonville Prison in August 1916 as one of the leaders of the Easter Rising. The awkward fact that Casement had become opposed to the Rising and had tried to prevent it does not fit either the heroic Irish narrative of his life or the official English account of the wartime traitor who died on the gallows.

Victims of a cruel prejudice: the last two men to be executed for sodomy in England

Seventy-three prisoners were condemned to death at the Old Bailey in 1835 at a time when there were more than 200 capital offences on the statute book. Nevertheless, all had their sentences commuted apart from two: James Pratt and John Smith, who were convicted of ‘the detestable and abominable crime’ of sodomy. The indictment stated that the accused had been ‘seduced by the instigation of the devil’ ‘The love that dare not speak its name’ may forever be associated with Alfred Douglas and Oscar Wilde, but the same reticence was clearly evident in the first half of the century. When in 1828 Sir Robert Peel introduced the Offences Against the

The men of blood get their comeuppance in Revolutionary France

Colin Jones’s hour-by-hour reconstruction of the fall of Maximilien Robespierre, the French revolutionary most associated with the Terror, is inspired by Louis-Sébastien Mercier, who believed that only by getting ‘up close’ to the ‘infinitely small’ details would it be possible to understand the truth about a Revolution that was stranger than fiction. Mercier (1740-1815) was an early science fiction novelist, a journalist, politician and Parisian. He was not an eyewitness to the fall of Robespierre because he was in prison in 1794, one of 73 moderate members of the governing Convention who had been arrested and held as ‘Robespierre’s hostages’. The Convention was a representative body of 749 deputies, charged