The Gunpowder Plot
Terror in Shakespeare's England
- James Travers
15th October 2019
The Gunpowder Plot is perhaps the most famous and well-documented event in British Early Modern history. This means the story can be told through original dialogue recorded at the time to a greater extent than any other of the period. James Travers’ new account exploits this potential for dramatic first-hand history by drawing on those original sources, at The National Archives and elsewhere. The book includes material from the official investigation and new evidence relating to the torture of Guy Fawkes.
This expert retelling of the Gunpowder Plot story brings seventeenth-century voices fresh to the page. It shows the complex motivations of the principal figures involved, both officers of the state and the plotters themselves, and tells the story of the Plot without the benefit or distortion of hindsight. Moving away from the crude dichotomy of Catholic and Protestant, characters’ decisions and reactions are shown at the heart of events. It can be argued, for example, that Fawkes was as much anti-Scottish as anti-Protestant. It is a dramatic tale, with original documents unveiling the key figures’ fateful decisions as they happen. The plotters’ generation was the first audience of Shakespeare’s plays and his words were common currency among them. There are shades of meaning in their plans and confessions, which have eluded historians until now.
At the time, Fawkes was the ‘unknown face’ of the Plot, prized by the well-known and well-connected plotters as a man who could pass unnoticed in Westminster, even as he went to destroy the Houses of Parliament. Today, ‘Guido Fawkes’ has become the face of political disaffection, thanks to his popularity as a mask for protestors. And in a modern world of religious terrorism, this book lets us understand what drove the participants in British history’s most potentially destructive home-grown plot.