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By Permission Of Heaven: The Story of the Great Fire of London [Paperback]

Adrian Tinniswood
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 July 2004

There had, of course, been other fires, Four Hundred and fifty years before, the city had almost burned to the ground. Yet the signs from the heavens in 1666 were ominous: comets, pyramids of flame, monsters born in city slums. Then, in the early hours on 2 September, 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.

Adrian Tinniswood's magnificent new account of the Great Fire of London explores the history of a cataclysm and its consequences. It pieces together the untold human story of the Fire and its aftermath - the panic, the search for scapegoats, and the rebirth of a city. Above all, it provides an unsurpassable recreation of what happened to schoolchildren and servants, courtiers and clergyman when the streets of London ran with fire.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New Ed edition (1 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712668470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712668477
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 234,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The great fire of London, here documented by Adrian Tinniswood in By Permission of Heaven is an apt reminder of urban disaster 17th-century-style. The story of the fire, which began in a bakery in Pudding Lane, is well-known, but as well as focusing on the fire itself--its cause, spread and its victims--Tinniswood is good at setting out the wider background to the event. He shows how the fire not only followed the devastation of the bubonic plague, but also came in the midst of the Anglo-Dutch war, public resentment at the restoration of the pro-Catholic Charles II and lingering anti-court feeling in the Square Mile (the City had stoutly supported Cromwell 20 years earlier). He focuses on the leading personalities of the drama--the gallant Duke of York, the hapless Sir Thomas Bludworth, the fussy Samuel Pepys, and the visionary Sir Christopher Wren.

Tinniswood is not distracted by trivia. He describes clearly the longer-term consequences of the fire: the rebuilding of the City, the emergence of fire insurance, and the exodus of noxious trades into the outer reaches of the capital. Above all, Tinniswood shows how anti-Catholic and xenophobic bigotry convinced Londoners for decades afterwards that an axis of evil starting in Popish Rome and ending with foreign arsonists was the real cause of the fire. Then, as now, religious fundamentalism and common-sense did not go hand-in-hand. --Miles Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Marvellously readable" (Daily Mail)

"The story of London's great fire is one of the set-pieces of English history. But the strength of Adrian Tinniswood's measured narrative lies in the fresh emphasis he places on its fallout" (Andrew Holgate Sunday Times)

"This book is more than just a gripping account of the great fire...with immense skill, Adrian Tinniswood uncovers the cross-currents of special interests that the disaster brought into play, many of which lend the story an almost contemporary feel" (Christopher Hudson Daily Mail)

"Admirably researched and highly evocative" (Nicholas Seddon Spectator)

"Even Pepys is too near and involved an observer to convey the full magnitude of the catastrophe. For that we need an historian, and Adrian Tinniswood's new account of the Great Fire rises impressively to the challenge" (John Adamson Sunday Telegraph)

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT 17 Jun 2007
By Mrs. A. M. Chadwick VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the first time I've read anything by the author Adrian Tinniswood and I wasn't disappointed.

I've never read anything about the Great Fire of London before and we didn't cover it in history at school to any great length, all I knew was were it started and what a mess it created.

Adrian has done a lot of research for this historical book and has included a lot of information. He's looked at it for all sides and how it affected not just the Londoners but the rest of the country as well.

The fire happened before the bubonic plague had finished and during the Anglo-Dutch war. There have been conspiracies about whom and why it had been started and this book answers a lot of those questions.

He focuses on the leading personalities like the gallant Duke of York, the hapless Sir Thomas Bludworth, the fussy Samuel Pepys, and the visionary Sir Christopher Wren.

The author also describes the long term consequences of the fire for example the rebuilding of the City, the emergence of fire insurance, and the exodus of noxious trades into the outer reaches of the capital.

This book was really interesting and informative, (it also includes black and white illustrations of how London looked at the time).

Personally I found it a compulsive read, Adrian draws you into all walks of life that were being lead at the time and how everyone coped with it. This is a book I will read again, it was worth the novel and for teenagers and adults alike who want to find out about the great fire of London this is an excellent book and I'd recommend it. :-)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thorough and well-written account 13 Aug 2008
Firstly a confession, despite or perhaps because of my occupation as a teacher of History, I read very few History texts. However a favourable review by a colleague led me to Tinniswood's excellent book.

Tinniswood has clearly researched this volume meticulously, drawing on previous histories of the Great Fire and a wealth of primary material. The events of 1666 are carefully placed within the political and social context of the period, in particular the Restoration and reign of Charles II and the wars against the Dutch. The unfolding of the Fire itself is recounted with an eye for fascinating details, such as Samuel Pepys burying his Parmesan cheese as the fire drew near to his home. Again Tinniswood draws expertly upon the contemporary accounts and evidence. Tinniswood also cleverly examines the aftermath of the Fire, in particular the process by which the rebuilding of London was undertaken and the way in which compensation was provided to the many thousands who had lost homes or livelihoods.

Tinniswood's account also touches upon contemporary themes; the treatment of the many migrants living in seventeenth century London during and after the events of 1666, and the desire to blame foreign agents for deliberately starting the fire. These issues are dealt with sensitively and expertly.

I would recommend this volume to anyone interested in this fascinating historical event. Tinniswood has produced an account that is strongly rooted in thorough historical research, whilst maintaining an engaging written style.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an engaging book, which takes a broad look at the background and consequences of the fire, alongside a detailed and compelling account of the events themselves.

Most popular accounts of the Great Fire draw heavily on Samuel Pepys, but Tinniswood goes substantially beyond Pepys to bring a wide range of contemporary sources, including other diarists, popular songs, official records, and later histories. This is both much better history, and vastly more exciting writing.

Tinniswood frequently juxtaposes the hopes and fears of the protagonists with what happened immediately afterwards. In this way, he brings a fine sense of historic irony to his account. For example, just a week before the fire, Christopher Wren and others were arguing in St Paul's Cathedral about how it should be repaired, following previous damage.

He also places it in a cultural context that few of us are really aware of. The importance of the year 1666 had been widely picked by astrologers and thinkers for a number of reasons, none of which make any sense to most modern people, but which had together combined to fill the city with foreboding. Likewise, the fury vented by the citizens on the French, Dutch and other foreigners would be hard to grasp in today's world, without the author's careful development of the importance of the Dutch war before the fire began.

The picture of London before the Great Fire which he gives us is one of a surprisingly late medieval town. The aftermath of the fire marks the beginning of the modern city.

Fascinating reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Rate and Fascinating 23 Jun 2010
By Deborah Swift VINE VOICE
This book contains all the background you did not know you wanted to know, until you saw it written down. Fascinating facts like the sad situation that much of fire-fighting then was about pulling buildings down with firehooks to create fire breaks.

Many personalities are in here too which lends the book great readability, and there is a plethora of geographical information about the extent of the fire and how it affected the future London.

Interesting too is the description of the aftermath of the fire - how people rescued their goods, and the folk with nowhere to go camped out on Moorfields.A city in panic with the attendant political consequences - the Dutch were scapegoated, for example - is brought to life with great vividness and thorough research.

Can't recommend this highly enough.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read
Followed this up after watching the TV programme based on it, and found it well written, entertaining and highly informative.
Published 14 months ago by J. F. Drinkwater
5.0 out of 5 stars The great fire of London
I brought this book to learn more about the great fire of London and I wasn't disappointed it's a good readable account of the events of 1666.
Published 19 months ago by Brian
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read
This was a very readable and multi-faceted examination of this famous event, with a particular focus on the aftermath of the event (the conflagration is extinguished less than half... Read more
Published on 25 May 2012 by John Hopper
5.0 out of 5 stars By Permission Of Heaven: The Story of the Great Fire of London
By Permission Of Heaven: The Story of the Great Fire of London Haven't started to read it yet. Hope it's good :-)
Published on 17 April 2012 by Irene L. Bezer
5.0 out of 5 stars Pity we weren't taught like this at school
Just finished reading the book, and its fantastic. It doesn't just tell you about the fire, but the lead up to the fire and all that happened afterwards, plenty of characters who... Read more
Published on 12 Feb 2012 by Marie Evans
5.0 out of 5 stars FIVE OUT OF FIVE
Utterly fascinating - An education on the history of England woven into the tale of that fateful fire. Well written and worth the read.
Published on 11 Sep 2011 by N. K. Frost
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Fire of London
I could not stop reading it when I first recieved it, a while back. I found it very interesting and factual. With quotes from the people at the time and samples of poems. Read more
Published on 2 April 2009 by Ms. V. R. Steer
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