The Unfortunate Colonel Despard


and the British revolution that never happened




published in paperback by Robinson

revised and updated edition

originally published by Bantam Press 2004



The story of the last man sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered for high treason. Set against the background of Caribbean slave revolts and naval mutinies, the Napoleonic Wars and the Irish Rebellion, Edward Despard brings to life the bitter struggle between the democratic ideals of Tom Paine’s Rights of Man and the political clampdown of William Pitt’s ‘Reign of Terror’.



Edward and Catherine Despard: a revolutionary mixed race couple in Georgian London

Riot, Revolt, Revolution: essay review on the Despards in London Review of Books

Blog by Cherry Gilchrist: ‘My Cousin, Ned Despard – Hero or Traitor’?


PODCAST   Travels Through Time: 1799, with Peter Moore for History Today



“A gem of a book” Sunday Telegraph

“Thrilling… it doesn’t let up for a minute.” Guardian

“This fine book is a gripping and salutary tale, well told, and popular history at its best.” Times

“A riveting account of the life and times of Britain’s first terrorist”
Independent on Sunday, Books of the Year

“Compelling, absorbing and wide-ranging…recent history and changing political views have brought Despard back into focus, most sharply with this pointedly titled account.” Sunday Times


VIDEO  Mike’s keynote lecture on Despard at the UK-Belize Association 2020 meeting