Time for my own.
Last week, I read God’s Agents (still linked over there on the right, as well), which is an excellent account of the Jesuits in England through the reign of Elizabeth up to the Gunpowder Plot.
So you see, it’s not a general history of Catholics in England during Elizabeth’s reign, nor is it simply focused on Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators. Alice Hogge’s approach is borne of the fact that you can’t really understand the Gunpowder Plot or its consequences for Catholics, and particularly the Jesuits, unless you’ve unpacked the Jesuit mission in England, with a particular eye to the conflict between loyalty to the Queen and loyalty to the Pope that they were forced to confront and which nurtured the suspicion of them over decades. What was interesting to me in the book, among other points, was her elucidation of the conflicts between the Jesuits and other English priests, and the entire, layered complexity of the determination to blame the Plot on the Jesuits.
(Hogge is the descendant of a recusant family, so while she is certainly an objective historian, the understanding of the Catholic position comes through loud and clear).
(You may remember that I asked a couple of weeks ago about fiction rooted in this era. We didn’t come up with many titles, did we? Does anyone else find that odd? You’d think that the high drama of the period – which includes disguises, cunning,ingenious hides (constructed by Nicholas Owen, of course), loyalty oaths, an evil priest-catcher, women crushed under boards, escapes from prison and a dried-up virgin Queen would be the stuff of marvelous fiction. I’d read it. Hey – maybe I’ll write it!)
What was odd, of course, was reading this book about fringe, radical members of a religious minority in England ready and willing to commit a violent act against the people and government, a religious minority whose leader, early on, had, indeed supported the military efforts of other nations to depose the monarch – yes, reading this in the weeks after the London terrorist bombing. Hogge herself addresses the issue in a page or two at the very end- not in relation to the bombings of course, but in relation to the issue of Muslims and violent Islamists in Europe and England in general. Her point? That it is quite possibly for minority resentments to grow to the point of violence, but that the majority walks a fine line in attempting to protect itself, as well.
This is the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot (an interesting nexus for those in London right now) – no coincidental publication of this book, then, I assume!