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By Permission Of Heaven

368 pages

There had been other fires, of course. Four hundred and fifty years before, the city had almost burned to the ground. The citizens still called it the Great Fire. But that autumn they were more fearful of destruction borne by water. Across the sea, the Dutch and French threatened a country barely recovered from civil war and still uncertain of its new King. Yet the signs from the heavens were ominous: comets, pyramids of flame, monsters born in city slums. Then, in the early hours of 2 September 1666, a small fire broke out on the ground floor of a baker's house in Pudding Lane. In five days that small fire would devastate the third largest city in the Western world: London. By Permission of Heaven, Adrian Tinniswood's magnificent new account of the Great Fire of London, explores the history of a cataclysm and its consequences, from that first small blaze to the decades-long work of rebuilding. The statistics of the disaster are terrible: 436 acres of closely packed streets burned; 13,200 houses destroyed; -10 million lost at a time when -10 million represented the City's annual income for 800 years. But the Great Fire wasn't simply a tragedy of economics or architecture. It wrecked lives and destroyed livelihoods, it killed and maimed, and it drove Londoners mad in their quest for vengeance. By Permission of Heaven pieces together the untold human story of the Fire and its aftermath - the panic and terror, the bewilderment and violence and chaos, the search for scapegoats, the rebirth of a city. Above all, it provides an unsurpassable recreation of what happened to schoolchildren and servants, courtiers and clergymen when the streets of London ran with fire and 'by ye Permission of Heaven, Hell broke loose upon this Protestant City.'

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By Permission Of Heaven