University of Portsmouth's History Blog

Gunpowder, treason and plot: Difficult pasts and how we remember them

The BBC series Gunpowder, screened at this time last year, sparked some lively debate. In this blog post, our Dr Katy Gibbons reflects on some of the responses to that series, particularly the graphic depictions of violence enacted by the state. Katy’s research looks at religious exile in Early Modern Europe, its impact on the home and host societies, and what it reveals about the complex interactions between groups of coreligionists in different parts of Europe.

Contemporary engraving of some of the conspirators, with Guy Fawkes third from the right.

The end of October often brings a focus on Halloween. The celebrations including pumpkins, trick or treat and fancy dress have tended to shift the focus away from a specifically British celebration of Guy Fawkes Night, with bonfire, fireworks and ‘Penny for the Guy’. However, the events of 5th November 1605, in which a group of Catholic conspirators aimed, but failed, to remove the Protestant monarch James VI and much of the state’s ruling elite, are a significant episode in British History. And the ways in which it has been commemorated and celebrated are revealing of how difficult events in the not-so-recent past are dealt with as part of a ‘national’ narrative.

To read the rest of the blog, published in The Conversation, click here.

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