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Gunpowder Plot Stoked Fears that Sowed the Seeds of English Civil War, Argue Academics

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It is a moment in history so famous it is part of British folklore and has been marked every year since - the failure of the Gunpowder Plot.

In a special talk next month historians from the University of Worcester will explore what happened after that infamous night in 1605. They will outline how the conspiracy to blow up the Houses of Parliament and subsequent challenges to Protestant rule would have long lasting divisive consequences and sow the seeds of the English Civil War 40 years later.

In the free talk entitled Gunpowder, Treason and Plot, at The Hive on November 2, at 6pm, Professor of Early Modern History, Darren Oldridge, and Principal Lecturer in History, Dr Paddy McNally, will be addressing what happened after Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators were caught.

Their talk will show how the events of 1605, still marked today by Bonfire Night each November 5, and 1641, shaped politics and religion for generations.

“Everyone knows about the Gunpowder Plot, but less is known about its legacy in 17th century England,” said Professor Oldridge.

“The annual celebration of the failure of ‘Gunpowder Treason’, as it was then known, helped to create a sense of Protestant identity - perhaps even national identity - in the period. It reminded people of the constant, terrible dangers of what was called ‘popery’ – the beliefs and practices of Roman Catholicism.”

The Plot’s discovery led to a strengthened sense of Protestant identity and an increased fear of popery for decades to come, he says.

“It lay behind the simmering conflict between King Charles I and his parliaments, and distrust of the crown in the 1630s,” added Professor Oldridge.

“And ultimately it united the opponents of the King in the English Civil Wars.

“The Gunpowder Plot did not lead directly to the battlefields of Edge Hill, Naseby and Worcester, but it is hard to imagine these events without the fear of popery that the Plot and its commemoration helped to engender.”

Dr McNally will look at a further Catholic rebellion in Ireland in 1641, which resulted in the massacre of Protestant settlers in that country. This rebellion, carried out in the name of Charles I, was a decisive factor in provoking civil war in the three kingdoms, he argues.

“Like the Gunpowder Plot, the Irish Rebellion was annually commemorated by Irish Protestants thereafter and is still referred to today in the annual 12th of July Orange parades in Northern Ireland,” he said.

"The 1641 Rebellion is significant for several reasons. It confirmed the belief in the minds of many British and Irish Protestants that 'papists' were inherently treacherous and bloodthirsty. It greatly exacerbated contemporary suspicions of the motivations of Charles I by associating him with ‘disloyal’ Irish Catholics."

For tickets visit: https://e-services.Worcestershire.gov.uk/LibraryEvents/EventDetails.aspx?id=381.