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

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

by Adrian Tinniswood
     
 

A work of dynamic history that depicts in fascinating detail the cataclysm that was the Great Fire of London and the modern European capital that rose from its ashes.

By Permission of Heaven is a thrilling account of the Great Fire of London that makes terrific use of a vast array of first-person accounts and forensic investigation. The result is an

Overview

A work of dynamic history that depicts in fascinating detail the cataclysm that was the Great Fire of London and the modern European capital that rose from its ashes.

By Permission of Heaven is a thrilling account of the Great Fire of London that makes terrific use of a vast array of first-person accounts and forensic investigation. The result is an impeccable achievement in historical storytelling that calls to mind equal parts Patricia Cornwell, Sebastian Junger, and Iain Pears.

By Permission of Heaven follows the conflagration from its beginnings in a Pudding Lane baker's kitchen in 1666 through the extreme devastation it wreaked. Adrian Tinniswood recounts the horror and wonder that gripped the city as the flames spread, destroying 13,200 homes, ninety-three churches, St. Paul's Cathedral, and every administrative building in the capital. While looting, savage violence, panic, and chaos reigned within the city and war raged without, hundreds of thousands buried their most precious possessions and fled, never again to see the Lon-don they knew.

Finely depicted here are the towering figures of Restoration England, such as Charles II, Samuel Pepys, and Christopher Wren, who played critical roles in the fire and its aftermath. Tinnis-wood also brings to life the schoolchildren, servants, clerks, and courtiers of the day as they watched the streets run with fire and the greatest city in Britain disappear before their eyes.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Adrian Tinniswood has done a heroic amount of research and, as the quoted extracts make plain, writes well. — Jonathan Yardley
Miami Herald
An admirably brisk book, Tinniswood blends an analytical overview with the stories of individuals gleaned from records and first-person accounts.
Washington Post Book World
Tinniswood has done a heroic amount of research and, as the quoted extracts make plain, writes well.
Publishers Weekly
In this history of the 1666 fire that destroyed almost the entire city of London, Tinniswood focuses on the political, legal and cultural significance of the catastrophe. He describes the blaze through the written accounts of both London's commoners and upper crust during the three-day blaze. These excerpts from journals and newspapers aren't quite able to place the reader in the shoes of Londoners while they ran for their lives or watched all their worldly possessions get swallowed by the fire; Tinniswood's greatest achievement is his ability to re-create the wave of paranoia that engulfed London before, during and after the tragedy. Though he never compares the rumors that the fire was part of a papal plot against the king or the handiwork of Dutch arsonists to today's terrorist fears, the similarities should help keep readers interested while pushing through this meticulous collection of historical references. An architectural scholar, Tinniswood saves his best for last, outlining the myriad factors that went into creating the landscape of modern-day London, including bureaucratic decision making and the emergence of architect Christopher Wren, about whom Tinniswood wrote in His Invention So Fertile. Illus., maps. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
London was a filthy metropolis in the 17th century. A serious plague had just devastated the city, and the Dutch war was turning into a debacle. The Great Fire of 1666 couldn't have come at a worse time, many thought. Some saw it as a punishment for social ills, and there was rampant speculation afterward that either unwelcome foreigners or Catholics had started it. Tinniswood solidly documents the course of the fire, which began in a baker's shop on Pudding Lane. He also wonderfully captures the mood of the times. A good portion of the book is spent illustrating the fire's devastation, with the disappearance of important "political, religious and commercial centers" as an example. Understandably, there was looting, and "the rage to blame" was intense, but Tinniswood also demonstrates the incredible resiliency of Londoners. The merchant class was quick to recover and began making profits almost immediately. And some, such as building suppliers, actually benefited from the fire. Soon, the Rebuilding Act was established, and famous architects such as Christopher Wren submitted their grandiose plans for the city. But despite the upside, it was a trial that would not soon be forgotten. This splendid account is highly recommended for all public libraries.-Isabel Coates, CCRA-Toronto West Tax Office, Mississauga, Ont. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A robust account from Christopher Wren biographer Tinniswood (His Invention So Fertile, 2002) of the fire that reduced much of Wren's London to ashes in 1666. In the mid-17th century it was the third largest city in the Western world (after Constantinople and Paris), a swarm of 300,000 souls, a hub of commerce, and a scuzzy place if there ever was one: "noisy, filthy, and smelly . . . butchers' offal lay rotting in the narrow streets, and human waste blocked open drains." A little fire clearance might not have been such a bad thing for London, except that 13,200 dwellings went up in smoke, more than 80 percent of the old, walled city. Coming on the heels of a terrible plague, the year 1666 ("an Apocalyptical and mysterious number," noted one contemporary astrologer) indeed brought fire, if not the stink of brimstone. Tinniswood's recounting of the conflagration is very busy, though comfortably so. He sweeps from the political stage to the mob in the streets, analyzes social contracts and building styles, airs conspiracy theories and examines local xenophobia, as he follows the fire from its start in a baker's shop, a flame so small the Lord Mayor declared "a woman could piss it out," through its spread via high winds to quarters far and wide. The author does particularly well in unraveling the many suspicions that flew in the fire's wake: it was Dutch revenge for the English bonfire at West-Terschelling, people speculated, or a Popish plot, or the work of the Almighty pointing a finger at King Charles the Dissolute. Tinniswood is also adroit in drawing a sensible picture of the reconstruction of London, delineating its many players and their shifting intents within the broad context ofthe Rebuilding Act, the Fire Court, and the nasty eruptions of religious intolerance that kept cropping up like spot fires after the blaze. Covers the Great Fire like a blanket. (16 pp. b&w illustrations, not seen) Agents: Felicity Bryan, Irene Skolnick

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781573222440
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/25/2003
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.48(h) x 1.24(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

Meet the Author

Adrian Tinniswood is the author of His Invention So Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren and Visions of Power: Ambition and Architecture from Ancient Times to the Present. He is a respected author, lecturer, and broadcaster in Britain and the United States.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >