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The Dreadful Judgement
 
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The Dreadful Judgement [Kindle Edition]

Neil Hanson
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Neil Hanson's The Dreadful Judgement: The True Story of the Fire of London is an absorbing history of the fire that destroyed London in four terrible days in September 1666. Hanson argues that the "Great Fire of London is one of those cataclysmic events that has burned its way into the consciousness of mankind", but that as an event it "remains misunderstood and many of the most intriguing questions remain unanswered". As the book unfolds, it turns into an interesting but largely fruitless piece of historical detection, as Hanson fingers various suspects responsible for starting the fire, including "foreign agents, religious fanatics, political factions, the Duke of York and even King Charles II himself". However, Hanson ultimately concedes that the cause is probably much more prosaic. The best part of the book is its meticulous recreation of the dramatic spread of the fire, with its flames "reaching into each street, lane, narrow alley or suffocating passageway, seeking always another hold, another way of advancement, fastening on to the least scrap of timber, dust or rags". However, Hanson is too often distracted into unconvincing historical "faction", pen portraits of kings and courtiers, and pseudo-scientific forensic analysis, creating a feeling that he is not sure what kind of book he really wants to write. Hanson is right to see the event as symbolic of "urban man's most terrifying nightmare: the city in flames", but in the end The Dreadful Judgement promises more than it delivers. --Jerry Brotton

Review

"Popular narrative history at its best, well researched, imaginatively and dramatically written." -- Times Literary Supplement, September 7, 2001

"The brilliance of its narrative ... marvellous eye for evocative detail... the equivalent of the special effects in a disaster movie." -- Daily Telegraph, September 2, 2001

‘Hanson has a marvellous eye for evocative detail. He creates the literary equivalent of the special effects in a disaster movie’ -- Thomas Wright, Daily Telegraph, 1 September 2001

‘Hanson writes with knowledge and verve…. An informative and lively account’ -- Jenny Uglow, Sunday Times, 2 September 2001

‘Popular narrative history at its best, well researched, imaginatively and dramatically written' -- Peter Earle, Times Literary Supplement, 7 September 2001

Book Description

A great iconic moment in the history of London turned terrific human disaster story.

Product Description

If the story that struck the Grand Banks off Newfoundland in October 1991 was The Perfect Storm, the fire that destroyed London in September 1666 was The Perfect Fire.



A fire needs only three things: a spark to ignite it, and the fuel and oxygen to feed it. In 1666, a ten-month drought had turned London into a tinderbox. The older parts of the city were almost entirely composed of wood-frame buildings and shanties. The riverside wharves were stack with wood, coal, oil, tallow, hemp, pitch, brandy, and almost very other combustible material known to seventeenth century man. On 2 September 1666, London ignited. Over the next five days the gale blew without interruption and the resulting firestorm destroyed the whole city.



THE DREADFUL JUDGEMENT tells the true, human story of the Great Fire of London through the eyes of the individuals caught up in it. It is a historical story combining modern knowledge of the physics of fire, forensics and arson investigation with the moving eye-witness accounts to produce a searing depiction of the terrible reality of the Great Fire of London and its impact on those who lived through it.

From the Publisher

A great iconic moment in the history of London turned terrific human disaster story.

From the Back Cover

If the story that struck the Grand Banks off Newfoundland in October 1991 was The Perfect Storm, the fire that destroyed London in September 1666 was The Perfect Fire.

A fire needs only three things: a spark to ignite it, and the fuel and oxygen to feed it. In 1666, a ten-month drought had turned London into a tinderbox. The older parts of the city were almost entirely composed of wood-frame buildings and shanties. The riverside wharves were stack with wood, coal, oil, tallow, hemp, pitch, brandy, and almost very other combustible material known to seventeenth century man. On 2 September 1666, London ignited. Over the next five days the gale blew without interruption and the resulting firestorm destroyed the whole city.

THE DREADFUL JUDGEMENT tells the true, human story of the Great Fire of London through the eyes of the individuals caught up in it. It is a historical story combining modern knowledge of the physics of fire, forensics and arson investigation with the moving eye-witness accounts to produce a searing depiction of the terrible reality of the Great Fire of London and its impact on those who lived through it.

About the Author

Neil Hanson is the author of many acclaimed works of narrative history. He lives in Yorkshire with his family.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1
Pitch and Brimstone
Tuesday 5 September 1665
‘Fears there are among us that within a while there will not be enough alive to bury the dead.’
Thomas Vincent, God’s Terrible Voice in the City

As the sun sank lower in the western sky there was the first hint of smoke in the air, carried on a breeze so faint it barely stirred the dust. Even in this, the first week of September, the heat remained fierce. As Thomas Farriner stood with his son, Tom, before the Moor Gate, his close-shaven scalp itched beneath the coarse hair of his wig and sweat trickled down his face.
The incessant tolling of church bells gnawed at his nerves and he waved his hand in an irritable gesture at the flies buzzing around him in lazy circles, drawn by the salt sweat upon him. They were everywhere, settling on the earth-coloured walls and crawling in the dust, fat and drowsy, as if bloated with food.
Thomas had waited this late in the day to avoid the throngs at every gate out of the city. None could pass without a certificate of health signed by the minister and churchwardens of his parish, and confirmed by the hand and seal of a justice of the peace. It had taken Thomas days of entreaties and all the modest influence his contacts could wield to win this exeat for his son, but his wife and daughters were remaining behind. Elizabeth would not leave her husband’s side, and she feared the risks to Hannah and Mary in the country even more than the threat that hung over them in the city.
They had heard the stories of fugitives from the capital harried from parish to parish, driven off with stones for fear of what they might carry with them, and forced to find what shelter they could under the stars. Many had died, unmourned, in some ditch, far from their homes and families. Only the terror that stalked London could have persuaded Thomas to let his son face the perils beyond the walls.
A ragged family ahead of them at the gate argued and pleaded with the stone-faced guards, then turned away and retraced their steps into the city, moving with the slow, dragging gait of men approaching the scaffold.
As they passed him, Thomas turned his head away and pressed his bitter nosegay of wormwood and rue tight against his face. Clasping the hand of his son, he walked up to the gate and handed the parchment to the commander of the guard. He took it in his outstretched, gloved hand, then turned aside to read it.
As Thomas waited, he watched a few citizens on the walls above them, keeping a wary distance from one another as they treated with farmers standing in Moorfields. The country folk laid their produce on flat stones in the shadow of the walls, then retreated a full fifty yards before shouting their wares. When the bargains were struck, the citizens were allowed through the gates to take their food and place their money in cups and hollowed stones filled with vinegar and water. After they had returned inside the walls, the country folk advanced to collect the money, hoping it had been purified by its immersion.
The guard commander held the pass at arm’s length as he read the flowing script and scrutinized the seal. He spat a jet of tobacco juice into the dust, then gave a curt nod and raised the bar, stepping back to avoid any risk of contact with Thomas and his son as they passed through the narrow archway.
The last of the farmers had already gathered up his money and his unsold produce and departed along the dusty track leading north, but a cart still stood waiting outside the gates. Not trusting his voice, Thomas embraced his son, crushing him to his chest as memories flooded him of the boy, now almost a man.
Every morning, before the rest of the household was astir, young Tom would pad down the stairs in his stockinged feet to watch his father at work in the bakery. Thomas would pretend not to have seen him, but, without looking, he would toss over his shoulder a piece of bread still hot from the oven. The boy would leap and catch it, then sit to eat it on the brick floor, warmed by the heat of the ovens. He would look up and smile at his father, his face lit by the dancing flames as the apprentices fed more wood into the fire. That look and that smile tugged at Thomas’s heart like no other.

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