A History of Political Trials

From Charles I to Saddam Hussein

by John Laughland (Author)
Monographs 315 Pages
Series: Peter Lang Ltd., Volume 7


The modern use of international tribunals to try heads of state for genocide and crimes against humanity is often considered a positive development. Many people think that the establishment of special courts to prosecute notorious dictators represents a triumph of law over impunity. In A History of Political Trials, John Laughland takes a very different and controversial view. He shows that trials of heads of state are in fact not new, and that previous trials throughout history have themselves violated the law and due process.
It is the historical account which carries the argument. By examining trials of heads of state and government throughout history – figures as different as Charles I, Louis XVI, Erich Honecker, and Saddam Hussein – Laughland shows that modern trials of heads of state have ugly historical precedents. In their different ways, all the trials he describes were marked by arbitrariness and injustice, and many were gross exercises in hypocrisy. Political trials, he finds, are only the continuation of war by other means.
With short and easy chapters, but the fruit of formidable erudition and wide reading, this book will force the general reader to re-examine prevailing opinions of this subject.


Publication date
2012 (June)
Oxford, 2008. 315 pp.

Biographical notes

John Laughland (Author)

The Author: John Laughland is an author and journalist who has taught politics and philosophy at universities in Paris and Rome. He has published several books including The Tainted Source: The Undemocratic Origins of the European Idea (1997) and Travesty: The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the Corruption of International Justice (2007). He has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Spectator, The Guardian, The Mail on Sunday and many other British, European, and American newspapers.


Title: A History of Political Trials