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The meaning of Guy Fawkes Day,
This review is from: Remember, Remember the Fifth of November: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot (Hardcover)
This is a book about both an event and the commemoration of it. That event, the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, was a failed attempt at a terrorist act which, if successful, would have completely changed the course of history. The plotters, a group of Catholics disaffected with the new king James I, planned to blow him up and the assembled political elites gathered for the opening of Parliament. The plot was foiled, however, when a chance encounter led to its exposure and the subsequent arrests of the plotters.
For the people of the English nation, it seemed as though they had been saved by Providence. James Sharpe's book excels not only at describing the plot itself (obscured as it is by the one-sided motivations of most contemporary accounts) but also how the commemorations of the event came to be an opportunity to celebrate a type of Protestant English identity. Key to this was the role of the Anglican Church in this, with a special service held on November 5th that emphasized the religious nature of events. As hostility towards Catholicism gradually abated in the 18th century, however, the anti-Catholic nature of the celebrations evolved into more of a focus on the figure of Guy Fawkes and the gradual disconnection of the events of commemoration from their meaning. Sharpe's analysis of all of this is entertaining and informative, and his book is a must-read for anyone seeking to better understand the place of the Gunpowder plot in English history.