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May/June 2007 Historically Speaking tiousness both divides and unites them. It divides them because they have different views of the world. Britain, through closeness to America, tries to be more than it seems. France, through proclaiming its independence, tries to seem more than it is—as de Gaulle put it, behaving like a great power precisely because it no longer is one. Britain's position seems to the French to be subservient; France's, to the British, to be posturing. Both face the same problem of having ambitions that exceed their capacities or, more precisely, that exceed their willingness to pay the cost. Hence in recent months the French have had difficulties in backing up their diplomatic role in Lebanon with troops; and although Britain is managing to provide troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are perilously overstretched and underequipped. The irony, of course, is that cherished ambitions could be served if they acted together, but they could only act together by giving up cherished ambitions. Both countries will soon have new governments, and a new chapter in their political relationship may open. But we can be sure that the ambivalence will remain. Robert Tombs is afellow of St. John's College, Cambridge , and university reader in French history. He is co-author, with his wife, Isabelle, of'That Sweet Enemy: The French and the British from the Sun King to the Present (Knopf, 2007). A World of Kings Brendan McConville • ? November 5, 1764, diarist John Rowe recorded that "a sorrowful accident" had happened in Boston's North End. A giant "carriage" constructed by the neighborhood's residents , carrying effigies of the Pope and other figures , had "run over a Boy's head" during a raucous procession "& he died instantly." In response to the tragedy, the authorities dismantled the effigies and sought to destroy a similar cart in the South End, the "North & South end Popes" as they were known. However, when the magistrates "went to the So. End [they] could not Conquer upon which the South End people brought out their pope & went in Triumph to the Northward" to seek victory in the traditional battle between the neighborhoods that occurred on Boston Common every November 5th. "At the Mill Bridge," Rowe continued , "a Battle begun," the North End people "having repaired their pope." Neighborhood pride was on the line—the North End traditionally prevailed in these battles—but on this day a repaired pope would not do, and "the South End people got the Battle . . .. Brought away the North End pope & burnt Both of them at the Gallows . . . Several thousand people following them" to see the spectacle on Boston Neck. So ended the annual celebration of the foiling of Guy Fawkes's 1605 plot against KingJames I and the English nation.1 Certain images predominate in popular imagination when we think of colonial America. Somber Puritans, heads bowed in prayer when not hunting witches at Salem; broad-hatted Quakers preaching peace in the city of brotherly love; yeomen farmers chopping wood and tending crops; dignified Indian chiefs negotiating with the ever-increasing number of white settlers; Virginia tobacco planters living in Georgian mansions on the Northern Neck, served by African slaves; and deerskin-clad frontiersmen opening new lands and fighting against the various Indian nations. Scholars have refined these images and added new ones to their more specific conversations : visions of midwives and wenches, merchant entrepreneurs, aggressive artisans, confidence men, enlightened intellectuals reading Country-influenced pamphlets, and evangelical preachers seeking to save souls from eternal hellfire. But mobile papist archetypes crushing innocent children, followed by nightRqyalism , it has seemed to the generalpublic and most American scholars, had never really taken deep root in colonial society. time battles on Boston Common? This all seems to be somehow foreign, un-American, at best the manifestation of lower-class rowdiness in a busy colonial port, at worst an early display of irrational religious bigotry. Yet it was none of these things. Boston's North and South End gangs were remembering Pope's Day, one of a number of annual royal rites at the core of political life in an imperial America that existed before 1 776. In that lost world, public holidays did not celebrate...


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