1666: Plague, War, and Hellfire
The year 1666 opened still fighting a particularly devastating plague outbreak from the fall before. Most people were eager to move on and rebuild; but others warned that the dire trials were a punishment from God — although whether that was for the recent regicide or for the new Court’s excesses depended on who you asked. Besides the plague, Charles II had a naval conflict brewing with The Netherlands. As if this were not enough, 1666 was the year of London’s Great Fire, which permanently changed the entire country.
The fun part of this book was its strong reliance on first-person accounts, diaries, letters, and etc., which give you a real feeling for how life was for Londoners at the time. Of course the best source, and heavily weighted, was the detailed, earthy, and excellent diary of Samuel Pepys, who observed carefully and recorded faithfully details large and minute; others’ voices add the additional perspectives of bureaucrats, aristocrats, artisans, yeomen, and craftsmen. The heavy emphasis on the Dutch-Anglo war got long, but it was interesting for the insights into the rise of the House of Orange after Stuart rule. This is a lovely little history elucidating important events seminal to London and British history.
Thomas Dunne Books