9781594480393 / 1594480397

By Permission of Heaven: The True Story of the Great Fire of London


Publisher:Riverhead Trade



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About the book:

The great fire of London, here documented by Adrian Tinniswood in By Permission of Heaven is an apt reminder of urban disaster 17th-century-style. The story of the fire, which began in a bakery in Pudding Lane, is well-known, but as well as focusing on the fire itself--its cause, spread and its victims--Tinniswood is good at setting out the wider background to the event. He shows how the fire not only followed the devastation of the bubonic plague, but also came in the midst of the Anglo-Dutch war, public resentment at the restoration of the pro-Catholic Charles II and lingering anti-court feeling in the Square Mile (the City had stoutly supported Cromwell 20 years earlier). He focuses on the leading personalities of the drama--the gallant Duke of York, the hapless Sir Thomas Bludworth, the fussy Samuel Pepys, and the visionary Sir Christopher Wren.

Tinniswood is not distracted by trivia. He describes clearly the longer-term consequences of the fire: the rebuilding of the City, the emergence of fire insurance, and the exodus of noxious trades into the outer reaches of the capital. Above all, Tinniswood shows how anti-Catholic and xenophobic bigotry convinced Londoners for decades afterwards that an axis of evil starting in Popish Rome and ending with foreign arsonists was the real cause of the fire. Then, as now, religious fundamentalism and common-sense did not go hand-in-hand. --Miles Taylor

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