‘Speyer said he would never forgive or forget the treatment he received. No reader of this instructive and poignant study would begrudge him that uncharacteristically ignoble sentiment.’
The Sunday Times
‘A compelling story has been created out of the circumstances and tragic drama of Speyer’s downfall.’
Times Literary Supplement
‘Just finished “Banker, Traitor, Scapegoat, Spy?” by Anthony Lentin about treatment of Sir Edgar Speyer. Fascinating.’
Sean Curran, BBC parliamentary correspondent
‘engaging and original’
Times Higher Education
‘Beautifully written, Banker, Traitor, Scapegoat, Spy? is unlikely to be surpassed as an account of Speyer’s life.’
Sir Edgar Speyer (1862-1932) was a celebrated figure in the financial, cultural and political high life of Edwardian England. ‘King of the London Underground’ and friend of Liberal Prime Minister Asquith, he was a generous public benefactor, who rescued the Proms from disaster and directed the funding of Captain Scott’s Antarctic expeditions. In 1914 Speyer stood at the peak of his fame.
On the outbreak of the wear, he became a pariah. Though a naturalised British citizen for over 20 years, his German parentage caused him to be ostracised by society and hounded out of the country by unscrupulous politicians and irresponsible Press. In 1921, under the newly enacted Aliens Act, he appeared before a judicial tribunal, which found him guilty of disloyalty and disaffection, and of communicating and trading with Germany in wartime. He was stripped of his citizenship and membership of the Privy Council.
Traitor, spy or scapegoat for the Liberal Party? The Speyer case remains controversial: in the foreword, Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC sees Speyer as the victim of injustice, while other scholars do not doubt his pro-German sympathies. Professor Lentin provides a balanced analysis, using newly-released documents to give the first detailed account of the fall of Sir Edgar Speyer.
ANTONY LENTIN is a Senior Member of Wolfson College, Cambridge, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a Barrister. Formally a Professor of History and Law Tutor at the Open University, he is the author of Guilt at Versailles: Lloyd George and the Pre-History of Appeasement (1985), Lloyd George and the Lost Peace (2001), The Last Political Law Lord: Lord Sumner (1859-1934) (2009) and General Smuts (2010). He has published widely on 18th-century Russia and has edited The Odes of Horace for Wordsworth Classics.