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The Gunpowder Plot involved 36 barrels of gunpowder in an undercroft below the House of Lords. Just how big an explosion would 36 barrels of 1605 gunpowder have created, had they gone off?

Avery Davis Avery Davis Nov 16, 2019 · 2 mins read
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The Gunpowder Plot is one of the most famous and infamous incidents in English history. It involved a group of Catholics who plotted to blow up King James I and the Houses of Parliament in 1605, hoping to provoke a rebellion and restore Catholicism to England. The plot was foiled when one of the conspirators, Guy Fawkes, was caught guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder in an undercroft below the House of Lords.

The question arises, just how big an explosion would 36 barrels of gunpowder have created, had they gone off? To answer this question, we need to understand a bit about gunpowder and explosions.

Gunpowder, also known as black powder, is a mixture of saltpeter (potassium nitrate), sulfur, and charcoal, which burns rapidly and produces a large volume of hot gas. When confined in a container, such as a barrel, the pressure from the expanding gas can cause an explosion, shattering the container and releasing the gas rapidly.

The Gunpowder Plot conspirators had prepared 36 barrels of gunpowder, each weighing about 90 kilograms (200 pounds). This means that they had about 3,240 kilograms (7,140 pounds) of gunpowder in total. This may not sound like a lot, but it was a significant amount for the time, and it would have been enough to cause a devastating explosion.

The power of an explosion depends on several factors, including the amount of gunpowder, the quality of the gunpowder, the container it is in, and the surrounding environment. In the case of the Gunpowder Plot, the gunpowder was of a relatively low quality, and the barrels were made of wood, which would have shattered easily.

Based on historical calculations and modern simulations, experts estimate that the explosion from 36 barrels of gunpowder would have been equivalent to about 2.5 tons of TNT. To put this in perspective, the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 had an explosive yield of about 15 kilotons of TNT. So while the Gunpowder Plot explosion would have been significant, it would not have been as powerful as a modern atomic bomb.

However, the impact of the explosion would have been devastating. It would have destroyed the Houses of Parliament and killed or injured many people in the surrounding area. The explosion would have also caused widespread fires and chaos, as well as a significant political fallout. The consequences of the Gunpowder Plot would have been far-reaching and long-lasting.

In conclusion, the Gunpowder Plot involved 36 barrels of gunpowder, which would have caused a significant explosion had they gone off. While the explosion would not have been as powerful as a modern atomic bomb, it would have been devastating nonetheless. The Gunpowder Plot remains a significant event in English history, and it serves as a reminder of the dangers of extremism and political violence.

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Avery Davis
Written by Avery Davis
Unleashing potential with passion and purpose.