Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan DoyleThis week, the literary world celebrated the birthday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I, like most of you, knew him as the creator of literature’s ultimate detective, Sherlock Holmes. What I didn’t know about him until recently is that he was involved in the real-life legal battle leading to the creation in 1907 of the Criminal Court of Appeal in Great Britain.

The story begins with Geoge Edalji, the son of the parish vicar in Great Wyrley at the turn of the 20th century. Reverand Edalji was a Parsee convert to Christianity and, seen as an outsider and labeled a “Hindoo”, was the target of a campaign of harassment for more than 20 years. The situation came to a head in 1903 after a series of threatening letters were delivered to the reverend and a number of local farm animals were brutally maimed. In an act of pure racism, the local police immediately targeted the young lawyer George as the guilty party. In a sham of a trial, George was found guilty and sent to prison.

Upon his early release three years later, George found himself unable to practice law and, in an act of desperation, contacted Conan Doyle. The author had been following the case in the papers and became immediately convinced of George’s innocence. Thanks to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes-like detective work, George Edalji was eventually pardoned, although never received any compensation for the time he spent in prison.

All of this I learned from a fascinating book (where else?) called Arthur & George by Julian Barnes. The book is historical fiction, but the details of the case seem quite close to the historical accounts I found with a little help from Google. I hope you pick it up, or take a moment to look up the case (try The Plebeian for a synopsis of the only detailed account of the case). Without Arthur & George, it’s possible that we might still be left with a direct appeal to our Head of State as our only recourse in the case of a false conviction.

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I've been an avid reader my whole life and am thrilled to share that excitement with others, especially kids. My favorite books of all time are: "Harry Potter", "The Giver", "Wuthering Heights", "Pride and Prejudice", "The Three Musketeers"....oh, I better quit while I can.

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One comment on “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  1. adam navin says:

    “Conan Doyle and the Parson’s Son: The George Edalji Case”, researched and written by Gordon Weaver, is the only non-fictional account of the George Edalji miscarriage of justice case. This book goes behind the scenes to explore the complex issues that surround the harassment of the Edalji family and the conviction and trial of George Edalji. The wealth of Home Office documentation held at the UK’s National Archives provides additional dimensions to what in fact was the case that changed the face of English law. An invaluable read for students of many subjects; for lovers of mystery; and for those who believe that fact can be stranger than fiction. For a synopsis visit the http://www.theplebeian.net.

    Best wishes

    Adam Navin