Each year in the UK we celebrate on the 5th of November, the foiling of a plot to blow up the houses of parliament by Guy Fawkes, and other conspirators.
It is a time of the year that most children love, with warm bonfires on cold nights, bobbing for apples and candy floss, as well as the many fireworks displays on offer.
It does seem quite funny when you think that we celebrate trying to blow up the houses of parliament, but it is something which had taken place ever since 1605, when the famous gunpowder plot was discovered.
A Battle of Religions
The Catholic conspirators in the gun powder plot were looking to kill the king who was Protestant. They wished to have the king’s daughter Elizabeth, succeed the throne, although she was only third in line.
Although everyone knows the name Guy Fawkes, he was not, in fact, the leader of the conspiracy, Robert Catesby had this role. But it was Guy Fawkes who was caught red handed leaving the cellars beneath parliament, where all of the gunpowder was located. Their intent was to blow up the houses of parliament, with all of the dignitaries inside.
The plot was foiled, however as a letter was circulated before time warning certain prominent Catholics to stay away from the opening of parliament on the 5th of November. Ultimately, it was this letter which eventually reached the king, which led to the searching of the cellars beneath the houses of parliament, where Guy Fawkes was apprehended.
A Big Explosion
Although the plot was exposed before they managed to set off the gunpowder, the amount of gunpowder which was discovered could have created severe explosions, which would have devastated the houses of parliament, and all that were inside.
The plotters stored barrels of gun powder, also known as black powder. This powder was first discovered in China and used by the military forces. It wasn’t until 1241 that Europeans first encountered gun powder at the battle of Mohi against the Mongols.
Since then it was soon adopted and spread across the armies of Europe very quickly. The composition of the gun powder then is very similar to that used in today’s modern fireworks and munitions.
The main difference being that modern munitions use a smokeless powder, which is much better in the field of battle. Needless to say, of the conspirators had been successful in blowing up the houses of parliament, then the UK as we know it may have been very different from what it is today.
The Civilised Chinese
As well as gunpowder, guns and mortars, there are also a lot of other things that we can thank the Chinese for:
The Chinese were ahead of the game in most of these disciplines, a long time before the western civilisation embraced them and furthered their knowledge. It may be a bit much to try and blame the Chinese for the gun powder plot though!
You can always go on package holidays to China, to see what else the Chinese have discovered way before Western culture. You may just be surprised!
Johanna Zhen is a British national of Chinese descent who is currently living and working in Shanghai. She is proud of both of her heritages, and she loves to explore the links between the two different cultures, as well as embrace the differences.
Johanna teaches ESL English, as well as also being a tour guide for English speaking tourists who visit her adoptive city. When Johanna is not working, she also likes to explore China for herself, and she manages to satisfy her craving for history best delivered through package holidays to China.