For as long as they have existed, stock markets have attracted fraudsters. "Napoleon Is Dead" is the fascinating tale of one of the earliest stock market scams; a tale of greed, deceit and the public humiliation of Admiral Cochrane, one of the greatest seamen of the nineteenth century. Early on 21 February 1814, an army officer revealed that the French had been defeated and Napoleon killed. When the London Stock Exchange opened at 10.00 am the City was full of rumours of an allied victory. The stock market immediately marked up the price of government bonds. A syndicate of speculators took the opportunity to offload its entire holding of the bonds at highly favourable prices. When it became evident that news of Napoleon's defeat was just an elaborate hoax, bond prices fell dramatically. Admiral Cochrane, a popular naval hero, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and imprisoned. He was thereafter expelled from the House of Commons and the navy, and stripped of his knighthood. But was he, as many have maintained, the victim of a conspiracy?
Richard Dale, a professor of international banking and a barrister, reopens the controversy in this fast, energetic narrative of a dramatic and colourful event.