01 November 2010

Talking the 5th of November on the 3rd

This Wednesday, 3 November, I’ll give an illustrated talk at the Boston Public Library on the topic “Lost Holiday: How Colonial Boston Celebrated the Fifth of November.”

The 5th was the anniversary of the day in 1605 when English officials thwarted a plot to blow up Parliament and King James I. Authorities discovered a man named Guy Fawkes in the cellar, ready to set off barrels of gunpowder. In short order, Fawkes and several co-conspirators were arrested, tried, and executed in various gruesome ways.

The Fawkes conspirators were Catholics, the bogeymen of the eighteenth-century British Empire. New Englanders were among the king’s most stridently anti-Catholic subjects, so they observed the 5th of November holiday with particular pleasure. In fact, they highlighted its anti-Catholic message, calling it “Pope Night” and burning effigies of the Pope and the Catholic Pretenders. But then the Revolution came.

My talk starts at 6:30 P.M. It’s free and open to the public. I believe it will be in the McKim Building—the older part of the main library, near the Copley subway station.


gail said...

Oh, this reminds me of V for Vendetta.

J. L. Bell said...

Curiously, V for Vendetta has produced a modern 5th of November tradition totally at odds with the original history. Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators tried to blow up Parliament to restore Catholic authority in Britain. Alan Moore’s V plots terrorism in a slightly futuristic London to break down authority. And that comic is compelling and popular enough to inspire Libertarians in America who might not be familiar with the older history; Ron Paul’s campaign scheduled a massive fundraising day on 5 Nov 2007, for example.