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The Gunpowder Plot

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  916 ratings  ·  81 reviews
Antonia Fraser, a popular historian, has delved into archives across Europe to unravel the true story of the plot by fanatical Roman Catholics to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I at the opening of Parliament in 1605.
Paperback, 448 pages
Published November 1st 2002 by Phoenix (USA) (first published January 1st 1996)
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For much of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I the repression meted out against Catholics increased almost annually. You can understand why the Queen might have been a bit annoyed with the Catholics – she might well have won the Spanish Armada, but even the joy of winning would have to have been tempered by the fact that these guys literally wanted her dead and were prepared to go to quite an extreme to assure that. A Pope had even named her in what we would probably call today a fatwa – making it v ...more
Remember, remember, the 5th of November; Gunpowder, treason and plot...

At first glance, it might seem a little odd that I am reading a book so closely connected with November and Bonfire Night at the beginning of August. But although Fraser manages to untangle much of the still confused circumstances and events which made up the Powder Treason, this book is a lot more than a simple recounting of the events of 1606. She places them in the context of a continuum of events dating back to the reign
C.S. Burrough
Jul 26, 2014 C.S. Burrough rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Antonia Fraser fans
Whatever Lady Antonia Fraser wrote about - I'm sure I could read her shopping lists and be entertained - would be worth reading. The lady is perhaps my favourite mistress of this genre. Not simply erudite, eloquent and formidably well educated, she's genuinely talented. Such is the key to her success and longevity.

It came as no surprise, therefore, that what has to me been one of the most excruciatingly boring episodes in history to glean facts from, was here made gripping material that refused
There is so much right about this book! Her comparisons to the similarities between how today's peoples react to similar movements and plots that cause disruption and turn people's thinking into being wary and wanting protection were very relevant. Catholics were not that accepted at this time, but it could have been alot worse and many just out of wanting safety and loose attitude from others about their own practice of their own faith. If there was anything that people didn't was to ...more
'Remember, remember the fifth of November...'

And we do, some four hundred years on. The memory of the Gunpowder Plot lingers on to this day in the ritual bonfire and effigy of Guy Fawkes on Bonfire Night on the 5th November, in the ceremonial searching of the vaults and cellars of the House of Lords on the eve of the Opening of Parliament, in the perennial joke regarding Guy Fawkes being 'the only man to ever enter Parliament with honest intentions'. However, it is likely that the majority of th
Before reading this book, I never understood the religious and cultural history of the gunpowder plot. Fraser takes us back to the beginning of the 17th century, when British Catholics were filled with hope at the death of Queen Elizabeth and the ascension to the throne of James I, son of Catholic martyr Mary Queen of Scots. Hope soon turned to disillusionment as Catholics realized that James was a thorough Protestant and had no intention of softening the anti-Catholic measures the Tudors had pu ...more
Jun 24, 2009 Tim rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: history
For the last few days I've been trying to recall a better book of narrative history, and can't think of one. On that basis it clearly rates 5 stars. All the boxes are ticked - the prose is clear, the main themes relating to the subject are all covered, sources are meticulously referenced, and it's an interesting and involving read.

I don't agree with all of Fraser's conclusions, but she is very clear about separating documented fact from deduction and speculation, and her ideas are certainly not
The story behind why we English have Bonfire Night every 5th of November. Fraser doesn't just tell the story of what happened that fateful night but also goes into the background of the reasons why the Catholics became homeland terrorists. As Fraser is a renowned historian I expected the book to be quite dry and academic so I was pleasantly surprised to find it an entertaining and informative read.
This was an excellent analysis of the Powder Treason. I especially liked the references to the wives and sisters of the planners. This book gives a great overview of what the reality of practicing Catholicism during the early parts of the Jacobean reign. It was well-researched and the footnotes only clarified interesting facts to the reader.
Linda Root
This was exactly what I needed in researching my WIP. It is an entertaining recap of the Gunpowder treason and it allowed me to later tackle some of the scholarly works upon which Antonia Fraser bases her research. The conspirator Thomas Percy is a major character in my novel, and Fraser's work provided me with the overview I needed.
Lori Widmer Bean
Since I like switching between fiction and nonfiction, I started this book at the same time I started The Appeal by John Grisham. So far, I'm loving this book. Fraser pulls you right into the plot from the epilogue, where she sets up the environment post-Queen Elizabeth. Her writing is lively, factual, and overall, fun to read.
Medium Read.
The best review imho of the Gunpower Plot. Who was involved, what was it about, why did the people do what they did, who blew the lid (pardon the pun!)
I don't know why I originally picked this history up, but it turned out to be a fascinating read.
Jan 28, 2009 Kelly marked it as to-read
Remember, Remember,...
Inken Purvis
“Remember, remember, the 5th of November.
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot.”

In England, 5 November is Guy Fawkes Day, when fireworks displays and bonfires commemorate the moment in 1605 when government authorities uncovered a secret plan to blow up the House of Parliament – and King James I along with it. A group of English Catholics plotted to kill the king and reintroduce Catholicism as the state religion by hiding 36 barrels of gunpowder i
1) ''My Lord, out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care of your preservation. Therefore I would advise you, as you tender your life, to devise some excuse to shift of your attendance at this Parliament, for God and man hath concurred to punish the wickedness of this time. And think not slightly of this advertisement, but retire yourself into your country [county] where you may expect the event in safety. For though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall rece ...more
A good conspiracy mixed with passionate religious fervor, international intrigue, a new king, and a plot to blow up the nation’s center of government – well, it makes for a fascinating tale.The Fraser telling is thorough, factual, presented in excellent written discourse. Some may find complex and even tedious the finagling of a few families and Jesuits, the subtle religious politicizing, and hereditary conniving. Readers may need to look up the meaning of “recusant” and “misprision” of treason; ...more

I bought this book after a trip to the beautiful city of York (Guy Fawkes’ home town) when I realised that I knew shamefully little about this important period of British History. This book has definitely put that right as it is not only filled with interesting details of the plot itself but also gives an excellent briefing on the state of the nation (and in particular what life was like for British Catholics) in the years beforehand. This is essential because you need to have some appreciation
Kelly Grossmann
I love Antonia Fraser! I really enjoy reading about history, but I tend to go for the historical fiction rather than non-fiction. Sometimes I feel like way too much information is but in and it ends up reading like a text book. Pretty boring. But not with Antonia Fraser. Other than the lack of dialogue that comes with reading any non-fiction book, hers seem to read like a novel. And The Gunpowder Plot is not the exception.

I really enjoyed reading about all the secret hiding places for priests th
A good conspiracy mixed with passionate religious fervor, international intrigue, a new king, and a plot to blow up the nation’s center of government – well, it makes for a fascinating tale! Around the end of the year 1605, a cabal of English Catholics, seeking to unseat the king and reintroduce Catholicism to Britain, plot to blow up the House of Parliament in London with thirty-six barrels of gunpowder placed in the cellar beneath. Bold and ambitious, the event constitutes a famous story with ...more
Under the shadow of the new king, James I, many promises and overtures were made to Catholics in England, and Catholic leaders abroad. The feeling was one of hope, and the language was one of tolerance and acceptance. Much of this would turn out to be political positioning from an astutely political king and his court, nonetheless the mood in the nation was changing. Drifting in to this play acted out on the theological stage were the men who were to become the embodiment of historical notoriety ...more
Dina Agazzi
Quando si sa raccontare la...storia

Ho appena terminato questo libro sulla congiura delle polveri e vorrei esprimere il mio apprezzamento per come è scritto il libro.
Ho letto altri commenti che notavano la pesantezza della storia, in particolare per il fatto che alla congiura vera e propria sarebbero dedicate poche pagine rispetto a quelle totali del volume.
Innanzitutto è vero che non è una lettura "leggera" ma trovo che il libro sia scritto benissimo, del resto ci si avvicina a letture storiche,
Daniel Kukwa
Incredibly exhaustive. It nearly topples over under the weight of so many people to keep track of, during the course of both the plot, its investigation, and its aftermath. Yet the smooth, guiding hand of Antonia Fraser keeps it all together, even when it seems that the book is ready to burst at the seams from all the information packed into its pages. It's certainly an impressive achievement of scholarship, and one that is as readable as any novel.
Darrell Woods
It is remarkable when you come across something that you think you have good knowledge of, only to find that really you know very little! The gunpowder plot is one of the most infamous events in British history but most of what I could remember turned out to be wrong. The book perfectly recounts the facts, of which even the smallest flesh out an adventure tale better than any fiction. Antonia Fraser also supplies the rich context of dynastic succession, political climbing and suspicions around t ...more
Mouldy Squid
A well researched treatise on the infamous 1605 Gunpowder Plot. Readers expecting a more "exciting" or "sensational" treatment of Guy Fawkes will be disappointed, but for those with a more academic interest in the history of the Gunpowder Plot will find this book rich in detail and information. Fraser focuses on the men, women and families of the plotters, and on the men who prosecuted them. Very necessary context is provided by Faser, clarifying the politics, society, religions and prevailing a ...more
It's a fascinating story: the radical Catholic plan to blow up the King and Parliament and retake England for the Roman Catholic Church. Maybe there's a good unbiased account out there somewhere, but the bias and axe-grinding of this version finally got so bad I quit reading. It felt very much like one of those interminable Kennedy assassination tomes where the author goes on and on and on, making unsubstantiated leap after leap invoking the appallingly a-historical "consider who benefits" argum ...more
Fraser’s is not the most stylistically compelling narrative non-fiction, but she is exceptionally clear. She is excellent at elucidating complex political and social contexts, and marshalling a vast cast of characters in a way that enables the reader to keep track of the major more
I had heard of Guy Fawkes Day and I knew they burned bonfires on that day, but I never knew why. Now I do. Antonia Fraser is a bit dry in her writing, but you can't knock her research and detail. The pace of the book did pick up with the unfolding of the plot. Fraser did do a good job setting you up so you understood the reasons for and the fallout from this attempt to blow up King James I and the English Parliment. It certainly makes you appreciate growing up in a country and time in history th ...more
I admit that I only became interested in the subject matter after it was mentioned in "V for Vendetta"...thank goodness. I read this book for a school assignment, which I believe helped me digest the sheer volume of information. It was fantastic and surprisingly relevant. In our post-9/11 world, many parallels were apparent. I empathized with both plotters and clergy (although Fraser clearly favors the priests involved, or not involved) and harbor resentment for the government-not for i's princi ...more
The goodreads synopsis of this book opens like this - "With a narrative that grips the reader like a detective story, Antonia Fraser brings the characters and events of the Gunpowder Plot to life." I am going to have to disagree. I would say that it grips the reader more like a Japanese handshake. This was not a very gripping book to say the least. She could not stay focused on the heart of the history at all. Her writing is all over the place and I had a hard time getting through a lot of her e ...more
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Antonia Fraser is the author of many widely acclaimed historical works, including the biographies Mary, Queen of Scots (a 40th anniversary edition was published in May 2009), Cromwell: Our Chief of Men, King Charles II and The Gunpowder Plot (CWA Non-Fiction Gold Dagger; St Louis Literary Award). She has written five highly praised books which focus on women in history, The Weaker Vessel: Women's ...more
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