J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, November 01, 2010

“Lost Holiday” Talk at the Boston Public Library, 3 Nov.

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 5th of November gained new power in British culture in 1688 when William III landed at Tor Bay on that date. Soon he and his wife Mary wrested the crown of Britain from her father, James II.

The Fawkes conspirators and James II were all 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.

[ADDENDUM: The B.P.L.’s event announcement.]

COMING UP: Henry Knox and the 5th of November.


John L. Smith said...

I wish I could attend your lecture, but stuck in the swamps of Florida here, I'll just have to imagine it! I always will be looking forward to your connection to Knox and Pope's Night. I recall something where as a young lad, Knox started his local notority with a Pope's Night event happening?

Seamus said...

I also wish I could attend. Is there any chance it will be recorded, perhaps offered as a podcast?

J. L. Bell said...

I don’t think this particular talk will be archived online, but if it is I’ll post a link here. Thanks for the interest.