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'etre 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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James Sharpe is Professor of History at York University. He is the author of The Bewitching of Anne Gunter and Dick Turpin (paperback January 2005) Praise for Dick Turpin: 'Crisp, colourful and possessed of appropriately large quantities of dash' Sunday TelegraphReview:
"the best all-round account [of the books on the Gunpowder Plot]" Times Higher Education Supplement "Highly engaging" Guardian "crackles with the curlicues of original source material" Daily Telegraph"
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