ANGERED that they could not worship publicly, 13 men piled 36
barrels of explosive powder near a government building to blow
their elected representative and their king to kingdom come.
Someone leaked their secret. Terrorists were arrested and tortured.
Grisly hangings followed.
For 200 years afterward, the government barred members of the
plotters' denomination from voting in elections, getting a college
degree, practicing law or serving as officers in the army or navy.
British historian Antonia Fraser focuses on the 1605 London
conspiracy by Catholics to blow up the Houses of Parliament in her
newest book, "Faith and Treason - The Story of the Gunpowder Plot"
(Doubleday, $27.95), which will be published tomorrow. The day the
plot was foiled, Nov. 5, is still a holiday, known as Guy Fawkes
Day, though, as Fraser writes, Fawkes was not a major instigator.
And, besides, his first name was really Guido.
Fraser will be at St. Louis University on Thursday to lecture
about the book and English history as the recipient of the St.
Louis Literary Award, given each year by the Associates of St.
Louis University Libraries, Inc. The lecture and award ceremony
will be at 5 p.m. in the St. Louis Room of the university's Busch
Memorial Center. Previous winners include historians Robert Penn
Warren and Barbara Tuchman; novelists John Updike, William Styron
and Walker Percy; and playwrights Edward Albee, August Wilson and
The Gunpowder Plot is 400 years old, but it has haunting
relevance to 2 0th century terrorism in the name of God in the
Middle East, Rwanda, South Africa and Northern Ireland, Fraser said
in an interview from her home in London's Kensington.
"People are so frightened by terrorism today, this tells them
that we have always had terrorism - they just didn't use that
word," said Fraser, 64. "Of course, some terrorists think that they
are at war, but those of us who are not at war say they are
The frustrated, naive men in the Gunpowder Plot were persecuted
for thei r religion, but she does not judge them as particularly
good men, she said. And they had completely deluded themselves that
all Catholics would rise and fight with them.
Some terrorists do become good men, Fraser said. Nelson
Mandela, who planned sabotage to overcome white South African
tyranny, and the Maccabees, the Biblical Jewish warriors who
delivered their people from the Syrians, are examples, she
She hopes her new book will help readers become more respectful
of different denominations and faiths after they read how
authorities incited religious prejudice with punitive measures that
had a tremendous impact on generations to come. Parliament, citing
the terrorists, did not allow Catholics to vote until 1829.
Religious stereotyping is worldwide today, she said.
"Muslim friends tell me that they often encounter the
stereotype that they are terrorists," she said. "Of course, there
are Muslim terrorists, but most are not terrorists."
And she's talked about plenty of up-to-date stories of bigotry
at London airports. Irish are often whisked aside by immigration
officials, quizzed and frisked as suspected Northern Irish Catholic
terrorists, she said.
"They equate having an Irish accent with being a terrorist,"
The St. Louis Literary Award is given to authors for their
entire body of their work, not a single book. Fraser has written or
edited about 30 books. For nearly 30 years, she's taken on 16th and
17th century England, giving it a fresh study, then writing
best-selling biographies and histories. …