Crackles with the curlicues of original source material (Helen Brown Daily Telegraph)
Pithy, lucid, highly readable, comprehensive (Neil Hanson Sunday Times)
Fascinating (Kathryn Hughes Mail on Sunday)
The best all-round account ... commendably skeptical (Jeremy Black Times Higher Educational Supplement)
Impeccably researched and beautifully written...a terrific history (Dominic Sandbrook Evening Standard)
Guy Fawkes is amongst the most celebrated figures in English history and Bonfire Night is a remarkably long lived and very English tradition. But why is it that in a modern, multicultural society people still turn out every November to commemorate a planned act of treason and terrorism which was defeated four hundred years ago? Had the Gunpowder Plot succeeded and the Catholics managed to blow up the king, the royal family and Parliament, English history would have been shaped by a terrorist act of unprecedented proportions, shattering in terms of both the damage inflicted and its propaganda value. James Sharpe examines the fateful night of 5 November 1605 and the tangled web of religion and politics which gave rise to the plot. He uncovers how celebration of the event, and of Guy Fawkes, the one gunpowder plotter everyone remembers, has changed over the centuries. Today, although most of the religious connotations have long been ignored, the bonfires remain. The festival created in 1605 by the state and church to commemorate a failed act of Catholic terrorism, now provides an annual raison d'être for the firework industry and an annual source of concern for Britain's cat owners. Every year the crowds gather, the bonfires are lit and the firework displays dazzle again. Interestingly however, the tradition is fast changing and reverting to the pre-Gunpowder Plot festival (now much Americanised) of Halloween.
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