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Title: Reactions and responses to the Great Fire :London and England in the later 17th century
Authors: Field, Jacob Franz
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: The Great Fire is an iconic moment in the history of London. It took place in the context of the Restoration, and had major value for any political group that wished to use it. London was the political, social, cultural and economic centre of England, so the Fire had the potential to seriously disrupt the nation. This thesis has shown that the Fire was a disaster for the Londoners it directly affected. However, it was not a disaster in the long-term. This thesis, using Hearth Tax assessments and records of the Merchant Taylors' Company and London's booksellers, has shown the essentially stable nature of London's demography, society and economy. The Fire only devastated the City - an area that was declining in its importance in the overall structure of the metropolis. The Fire had the effect of speeding population growth outside of the Walls, but this was an ongoing trend in 1666. This thesis has examined the nationwide response to the Fire, with charitable contributions for London coming from across England, for both `distressed' Londoners and the rebuilding of St Paul's Cathedral. Urban areas and the South-East tended to be the most generous. The distribution of the donations to Londoners after the Fire was along existing charitable lines - concentrating mostly on widows and other 'deserving' poor. The long-term impact of the Fire lay in its polemic value. Interpretation of the Fire was highly contested, appearing in all forms of media, and used across the political spectrum - from nonconformists to Anglican Royalists. At key `moments', the memory of the Fire was used - in particular during the Exclusion Crisis. The example of the Fire was utilised by all religious groups, especially to remind of the consequences of divine wrath. This thesis has shown that ultimately, London was resilient to the damage caused by the Great Fire.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Historical Studies

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