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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Narrative of the Powder Treason
For those among you who have read other historical narratives by Antonia Fraser you will know that her depth of research and story telling skills are beyond reproach. And so it is with this book.
The book outlines not only the details of the conspiracy itself but also sets the scene by explaining the very real persecution that catholics were exposed to in the last...
Published on 26 Nov 2005 by Mr. Peter A. Green

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars History is written by the winners
. . . and the version of the Tudor period told to Catholic children differs from the version taught in state schools. To the majority of us, Elizabeth was the golden queen who held the balance of power for 40 years, redeeming the bloodbath of her sister's reign with mercy and temperance, and saving us from the terrors of the Inquisition as carried in the holds of the...
Published 21 months ago by Peasant


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4.0 out of 5 stars Education made easy, 8 Nov 2012
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An excellent book, meticulously researched, that gives the background to a familiar story in a compelling manner. I was sorry when I came to the last page.
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3.0 out of 5 stars History Should be Objective, 26 Sep 2012
This review is from: The Gunpowder Plot: Terror And Faith In 1605 (Paperback)
The Gunpowder Plot is a very readable book which has been well researched, but it is so biased, so pro Catholic and anti Protestant that I cannot really recommend it. Fraser always tries to justify the behaviour of Catholics whilst coming down heavily on Protestants, even when it is about areas like motives that she cannot possibly know about. I was always taught that good history is objective and whilst that is nearly impossible she is so far from the mark.
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5.0 out of 5 stars interesting read., 18 Sep 2012
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This review is from: The Gunpowder Plot: Terror And Faith In 1605 (Paperback)
great to see this book featuring period 17th century pieces,photographed for our pleasure-history from this century is always thought provoking.recommended.oh,and i originally thought that robert catesby was a yorkshireman like fawkes,thanks for the correction in print Antonia.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remember, Remember, 9 Sep 2006
By 
J. Chippindale (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Gunpowder Plot: Terror And Faith In 1605 (Paperback)
As the old saying goes Remember, Remember the Fifth of November, Gunpowder, Treason and Plot. In the present day come November 5th we all look forward to a firework display and a bonfire on which to burn the effigy of someone called Guy Fawkes while enjoying a roast potato, some of mum's parkin and cinder toffee. But who is the man called Guy Fawkes and what did he do that was so bad that we have to burn him every `Bonfire Night.'

Guy Fawkes was born in the city of York, less than 20 miles from where I live. He has always been attributed with the leadership of a group of men who plotted to blow up the Houses of parliament on November 5th 1605. Their motives were both political and religious. Even today many such similar deeds are carried out or attempted in the name of one religion or another. A damning indication that man very rarely learns from his mistakes.

Antonia Fraser is an accomplished and much read historical author with many awards for her writing skills and she has the consummate skill to be able to make the book read like a modern day detective novel, yet in no way prejudicing the factual historical content of the events that led up to the plot being foiled literally at the last moment.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and compelling account., 14 Feb 2000
By A Customer
Antonia Fraser gives us a detailed account of the events leading to the Gunpowder Plot from last days of Queen Elizabeth I until the aftermath of the failed 'Powder Treason'. The research the author has carried out is deep and the information is presented in a coherent and clear manner. It provides a good insight to the plight of the Catholics during the reign of James I, placing the events within the context of Jacobean Britain and Europe. An excellent read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'A thundering sin of fire and brimstone' (James I 1605), 17 Feb 2013
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This review is from: The Gunpowder Plot: Terror And Faith In 1605 (Paperback)
'A thundering sin of fire and brimstone' (James I to Parliament on 9 November 1605)
Antonia Fraser's 'The Gunpowder Plot' is in many ways an excellent study of a mystery in English history which is too easily dismissed as 'cut and dried'. It is well-written with ready access to identities of source materials.
Antonia Fraser explains the links between leading recusant families and stresses produced on them by the role played by women. She notes how many preserved their Catholicism under an Anglican front during the reign of Elizabeth. But she also describes how many disappeared overseas, to Louvain and Douai as well as the armies of Spain. She stresses how James I, perhaps far from being 'the wisest fool in Christendom' (Henry IV), was a skillful manipulator of opinion with a batch of (undelivered) promises and a torrent of encouraging words and preferments which kept the lid on the boiling kettle, at least initially. Linked to this is the stress given to a FAMILY-based monarchy after the arid decades of rule by the 'Virgin Queen'.
Antonia Fraser stresses the family bonds uniting the conspirators - except for a few outsiders, notably Guy Fawkes. She minimises the role of priests and the Sacrament in the whole affair - undoubtedly overplayed by the authorities in their shock after 5 November 1605, with the extra motivation to at opposition strike as widely as possible. She rejects the tale of an attempted digging of an underground passage from rented quarters to the cellars under the Palace of Westminster. One might ask if anybody, outside the distorting world of fanaticism, ever believed in any such idea - how to dispose of the debris, how to direct the passage, how to supply the props and expertise required are just a few of the objections.
Be that as it may, Antonia Fraser makes it clear that failure followed expansion of personnel which led to betrayal to Monteagle and so to the authorities. She states the informant was Francis Tresham - later and whom she castigates as a 'wayward, treacherous and perhaps ultimately self-hating character' . Nevertheless, this betrayal was not THROUGH the letter TO Monteagle because she alleges it was written through his agency - not his own handwriting but produced possibly at his dictation. Then he could surrender that document to Robert Cecil (in charge of security) who EVENTUALLY showed it to the King. Note the delay and link that with the author's argument that the plotters knew they'd been betrayed but Catesby pushed through the operation. That delay is the mystery to me. Firstly, did Cecil delay because of doubt about the royal reaction? Elizabeth wouldn't have hesitated to smash a recusant plot but James was negotiating a treaty with Spain and had 'played' with known recusants. Secondly, why didn't the plotters cut and run, leaving Catesby, and anybody mad enough to help him, to face the consequences? The author doesn't really deal with those questions.
Guy Fawkes was seized about midnight on 4-5 November and Parliament's session was delayed to 9 November. Within hours eight names of conspirators were known. 'It is of course impossible to be certain how much of this process was helped on by Tresham's confidences to Monteagle' declares Antonia Fraser whose style reveals the weakness of the accusation. Fawkes aka Johnson is not included in the list so does that mean that Monteagle/Tresham didn't know about that key-figure? The author makes no comment. Guy Fawkes 'beginneth to speak English' (Hoby) reveals that he was broken by the rack two days later. He produced a series of confessions, with signatures worsened by the application of a thumbscrew, which eventually included the name of Francis Tresham. Meanwhile the plotters rode around the country like beheaded chickens until cornered at Holbeach House in Staffordshire. There ironically several were injured by exploding gunpowder and the chief participant, Robert Catesby, was killed. Incidentally I was unaware of the official transfer of gunpowder on 7 November from Westminster to the Tower of London. However, my sceptical mind wonders why no description in diaries or letters apparently appears regarding a key event linked to what must have been the sensation of the day.
Other plotters were speedily rounded up and clearly much of the accompanying zeal arose from personal spite or private gain. These were interrogated in the Tower, largely by its new Governor, Sir William Waad, who'd been 'involved in the discovery of the major conspiracies of late Elizabethan and early Jacobean times' and so, the author hints, was untrustworthy. Regarding the major confession used by historians, Antonia Fraser remarks ' that Tom Wintour by now was remembering what he was told to remember' and the whole document is suspect. Largely thanks to the confession of Thomas Bates the affair was transformed into the 'Case of the Conspiring Jesuits' - and that is the nub of the whole business for Antonia Fraser.
Initially Catholics were not blamed en masse for the 'Powder Treason' but that leniency disappeared as the role of Jesuits became high-lighted. The contradiction underlying this canard appears to be one of the main points of the book; repeatedly she denies priests had knowledge of the plot, asserts their rejection of any such resistance and fiercely divides English Catholicism into a large majority prepared to work their way around restrictions imposed after 1559 and a distinct minority prepared to attempt violence.
However, although the author dwells long on the miserable life experienced by Catholic recusants under Elizabeth, you will find no mention in her pages of the Ridolfi(1571), Throgmorton (1563) or Babbington (1586) plots , largely inspired by the Papal Bull (Regnans in Excelsis) of Pius V which 'deposed' the Queen - and which fizzle out after the execution of her rival, Mary Stuart, in 1587. All these plots saddled Catholics, justifiably or not, with the whiff of treason. Indeed the only plot appearing in the index is the 'Popish Plot, a fraud perpetrated by Protestant liars in 1679 - although it does cover the indecisive 'Main' and 'Bye' plots of 1603 against James. There's no mention of the Marian persecutions of 1555-8 and very little of the Spanish Armada (1588) and little mention of the Dutch struggle vs. the Spanish which originated in persecution nor of St. Bartholomew's Eve (1572), a key episode of the French Religious Wars. Just after describing the arrest of Guy Fawkes Antonia Fraser describes at length the application of torture by Protestants towards Catholics without a single mention of the reverse - e.g. the racking of Ann Askew in 1545. There's no mention of the harassment suffered by the Puritans, also victims of Elizabeth's 'via media' politics. Antonia Fraser does examine the split between Catholics backing Jesuits (and so, usually, Spain) and the 'Appellants' stressing their loyalty - note this split occurs AFTER the defeat of the Armada.
The last parts of the book are concerned with the fates of the plotters and, more importantly, with those on the periphery, namely family members, friends, bystanders and Jesuits. Much of the evidence produced borders on the hagiographical and you could be reading the life of a 6th century saint or the account of a Marian martyr culled from the pages of Foxe for all the reliability / scepticism you may choose to exercise. For the cruelties inflicted on guilty and innocent alike you might compare not only the activities of the Gestapo, NKVD or Savak but also, perhaps, by the opponents of Al Qaida. For the way the innocents are dragged into the mire of public opprobrium or severe punishment consider the Show Trials under Stalin or the efforts of McCarthyism. Add to that the primitive / direct approach pursued by governments of the period generally - e.g. vs. heretics and witches. No spying on emails, cctv or phone hacking was available to secure conviction, unlike today. A good case would be that of the Jesuits, so strongly supported by the author; some were agents of Spain, some were supporters of claimants to the throne and some were merely trying to administer religious rights to the faithful in a hostile environment - to make matters worse, some Jesuits might be all three! So how can we distinguish them? We can't - and nor could the interrogators of the time. Of course, the authorities lied, forged documents and cheated to get the convictions of both guilty and innocent, but the same thing happens today.
In the last chapter Antonia Fraser considers 'Satan's Policy' and describes the injustices piled on Catholics since 1605, not only a disgraceful burden placed on the innocent but also a disastrous loss of talent and service to the community. She also discusses the wide variance in historiography but appears to have forgotten that no piece of evidence can ever be seen in isolation but is examined on the basis of previous experience. I would like to think that both she and myself prefer a position on the fence of judgement when dealing with this slice of History but consider her last paragraph:
'The study of history can at least bring respect for those whose motives, if not their actions, were noble and idealistic. It was indeed a 'heavy and doleful tragedy' that men of such calibre were driven by continued religious persecution to Gunpowder, Treason and Plot'. To this I would quote, 'By their fruits you shall know them' (Matt:7,10) Has Antonia Fraser fallen off that fence?
In sum, this is a biased book and justifiably so because, as we all should know,' History is written by the winners' (Napoleon)and Catholicism 'lost' in Tudor and Stuart England. So this work may try to provide a balance. Antonia Fraser makes fine use of the sources but how trustworthy are they? The reader can judge according to a predisposition or by critical examination of the materials. Antonia Fraser attempts the latter but, I fear, is undermined by the former. That's why I give the book 4 stars..
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gunpowder Plot, 30 Dec 2010
This book makes the people and places real, not just names and dates. Easy to read and informative about the way of life in that period.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark history, 16 Nov 2010
This review is from: The Gunpowder Plot: Terror And Faith In 1605 (Paperback)
Antonia Fraser has once again through her brilliant story telling and thorough research achieved to shed light to one of the most exciting days celebrated by us on the 5th of November.
However back in time it was no joyful merry making that led to such a plot. Sheer distrust towards the King and his false promises forced a group of men to extremes. As always Fraser makes you live the period with it's religious diplomacy and underlying angst of the common people.
Well worth it's five stars.
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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great background to the history of Bonfire Night, 21 Aug 2001
By A Customer
Before I read this I only had a cursory knowledge of the background to November 5th. This book brings to life the characters and the reasoning behind the Gunpowder Plot. It flows very easily and engages your sympathy.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous, gripping and with a deap understanding of the stor, 29 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This book brings to life briliantly something which most people know nothing about. The story is told like a novel, with a lead up to a gripping ending. There is so much more to this part of history and Antonia obviously knows her stuff. Buy it.
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The Gunpowder Plot: Terror And Faith In 1605
The Gunpowder Plot: Terror And Faith In 1605 by Lady Antonia Fraser (Paperback - 1 Nov 2002)
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