Like a phoenix from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1666, London was reborn to become the greatest metropolis of the age. London Rising tells the story of five extraordinary men and the city they transformed.
By the middle of the seventeenth century, London was on the verge of collapse. Its ancient infrastructure could no longer support its explosive growth; the English Civil War had torn society apart; and in 1665 the capital was struck by a plague that claimed 100,000 lives. And then, the following year, the Great Fire destroyed huge swaths of the city. As Leo Hollis recounts in his stirring history of the period, modern London was born out of this crucible.
Among the catalysts for this rebirth were five extraordinary men, each deeply influenced by the Civil War, whose intersecting lives form the heart of London Rising: famed philosopher John Locke, whose ideas about the individual would outline a new theory of civil society based on natural rights; diarist John Evelyn, who insightfully chronicled the tumult and transformation before him; the polymathic scientist and architect Robert Hooke; developer Nicholas Barbon, who rebuilt much of the city after the fire; and Christoper Wren, astronomer, geometer, and the greatest English architect of his time, whose reconstruction of St. Paul's Cathedral was the essential symbol of London's rebirth. The city today is in great part the result of the myriad advances in literature, planning, science, and social issues forged by these five.
Hollis paints a vibrant portrait of one of the world's greatest cities, and of a generation of men whose impact on London is unmatched.
Leo Hollis is a writer and editor. This is his first book. He was born in London and continues to make it his home.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations ix Introduction 1 Children of the Civil War The Greatest Hazard that Ever the Youth of England Saw 11 A Quiet Revolution 35 The Rise and Fall of Restoration London Restoration and Renewal 59 The Two Cities 83 London Was, But Is No More 111 Resurgam Measuring the City 135 The Surveyor-General 157 The Making of Modern London The City of Speculation 187 Ancient and Modern 206 Raised in Extremes 224 Looks Like a Revolution 245 London Reborn Melting It Down and Making It Anew 275 The London Revolution 295 The Phoenix Is Risen 315 Endings 338 Notes 351 Bibliography 360 Acknowledgements 375 Index 376