- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: John Murray; 01 edition (23 Feb. 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1473623545
- ISBN-13: 978-1473623545
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 55 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 142,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
1666: Plague, War and Hellfire Paperback – 23 Feb 2017
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An impressively vivid account of an extraordinary piece of England's history. Rideal is particularly good on the great set pieces - the plague, the fire and (especially) the naval battles - which she brings to dramatic life with telling details (The Times)
A book firmly anchored in the grain of contemporary accounts, sparking with the crackle of first-hand reports (Guardian)
Sympathetic and sharp-eyed ... an enjoyable book about an exciting period of history (Daily Telegraph)
Rideal's London pulses with humanity . . . It is Rideal's vivid and confident style, teamed with meticulous research and a curiosity for the quotidian that makes 1666: Plague, War and Hellfire a memorable, gripping and very satisfying read (Historia)
Accessible and entertaining . . . a keen eye for engaging anecdote and historical personality (The Spectator)
1666 is described brilliantly . . . a rollicking new book (Evening Standard)
Bound to reveal secrets you won't have heard before (History Revealed)
Gripping and beautifully written . . . extraordinarily vivid (BBC History Magazine)
It's just extraordinary, just taking a single moment, albeit a very significant one in history and weaving in the political, the social the military history. But she writes like a novelist and has clearly done her research, it's a very scholarly book. I literally couldn't put it down (Tracy Borman, Open Book)
In sixteen hundred and sixty-six . . .See all Product description
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Both Charles and his brother, the Duke of York, were surprisingly hands on in terms of providing leadership and holding things together as the death statistics rose, fell, and rose again, with normality only slowly returning just when the Dutch began their offensive. A Merry Monarch with a stable full of mistresses he may have been, but when the chips were down, he showed courage and strength.
When it seemed that things really could not get any worse, the equivalent of the Blitz struck in the form of a small fire, which in the rabbit warren like streets of wooden buildings, grew into a major conflagration, changing the face of London for ever, as small homes, public buildings, churches and indeed castles (Baynards Castle was an early casualty) were destroyed in the firestorm. Awful as it was, the fire was a cleansing of sorts and once thoughts turned to rebuilding, Christopher Wren was there to provide plans for a new, more modern, more beautiful capital to replace the medieval structures and layout, and it was his vision which saw great beauty rise out of the ashes.
That said, those months through 1665 and 1666, must really have felt like the Biblical "end of days", and it is through the experiences of everyday people that the full scale of these tragedies becomes clear and more personal. The desperate level of poverty that many experienced, the scandal of sailors maimed in the service of their country and left starving on the streets, the plight of able bodied men being pressed into the navy and the threat of invasion, did cause rumblings of discontent against the ruling class, although they came to nothing in the end.
This author has produced a superb book, enlightening and moving and very well written.
As I came to this book with a burgeoning interest in the subject matter, I admit I was well disposed towards it from the off, but it actually exceeded my expectations. So much is delved into, from rifts with royalty to the state of London’s streets, and it gives a great sense of the mindset in England at the time. We get a chance to meet many Restoration characters. In the extensive looks at both the Great Fire of London and the Second Anglo-Dutch War, there are some particularly interesting points made about many of the figures of the day. Of course, we can never know exactly what went through the head of Charles II or George Monck, for instance, but I really like the bits of info dropped in that provide background or help us see the positions these people were in during the calamities they were dealing with.
Something else I found a pleasant surprise was just how well 1665 is covered. The author’s discussion of the Great Plague is more detailed than I’d expected, but rightly so as you can’t go into 1666 without remembering the magnitude of what had come before. Few sentences have caught my attention quite as much as ‘Bubonic plague was, and remains, a disease unrivalled in its capacity to dehumanise its victims’, although the whole book is full of perfectly worded examples like this that give you not only fact but also feeling.
I adore Rebecca Rideal’s writing style. She intersperses in-depth description with occasional punchy comments that add emphasis or sometimes even humour. Several quotations crop up in the text, mind you. For me that can interfere with the narrative but I reckon that’s just my personal approach as a reader. There are some good ones in any case. While several nods are made to the famous diaries of Pepys, we’ve also got extracts from letters, poetry and ballads.
Alongside literary and theatrical references, there’s a healthy dose of natural philosophy, which pleased me no end. I won’t give anything away about Margaret Cavendish – she’s part of the fascination here – but there’s also Hooke, Boyle, Newton, Wren… For obvious reasons, Wren and Hooke were names not to be left out. However, I hadn’t realised how much of Newton’s scientific activity took place in the 1660s, and Rebecca Rideal has gone into marvellous detail about some of his early work. Great balance between the arts and sciences, which I think reflects the age to a T!
All in all, there’s something here for everyone. It’s full of specifics like dates, locations etc. but it’s a brilliant general read to put your feet up with. I’m no scholar. I’m just an amateur with a passion, and I can tell you this book has fuelled my passion all the more.
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Just received "1666"---Can't wait to delve into it. At first skim, very readable and fascinating.
in the history of British facts and behind the scenes history keeps you interested