James Jonathan Gray
According to Adrian Tinniswood, seventeenth-century Londoners vacillated between seeing the Great Fire of London as an act of terrorism and an act of god. What were the major components of these explanations and why were contemporaries so eager to search for a reason for the calamity other than simple accident.
Was the Great fire of London an act of terrorism or an act of God? There are numerous explanations that attribute to the belief in either. London in the seventeenth century was no paradise and was actually a quite unpleasant place to live. Coupled with thousands dying from an outbreak of plague, with the dead sometimes populating the streets of London, it is quite obvious that something had to be done and London needed a very serious change. Perhaps it was divine intervention, and God, through fire, actually cleansed the city for a great renewal; but there are other reasons as well that lead people to believe this Great Fire was from heaven. On the other hand, England had been involved in an ongoing war with the Dutch, and many suspected that this was retaliation for some very real damage that the British had done to the Dutch during the course of the war. In this paper, I will discuss the components of each of these possible realities of the fire and why seventeenth century Londoners believed these reasons, thusly causing some people to want to explain the fire besides calling it a simple accident. Perhaps the fire was an act of God. Many Londoners of the day were certain that it was. It not only was a rescue from unfavorable living conditions, but many believed it was just a matter of time until God’s judgment on London was to come. Firstly, London was struck in 1665 with a horrendous bout of bubonic plague. It is estimated according to Tinniswood that 20,000 people of every 100,000 died because of the great plague. That is to say that one out of every five Londoners died (9)....
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