Thursday, October 13, 2005

Plague and Fire

Amidst this gathering crisis two natural disasters seriously weakened crown finances and seriously dented national self-confidence: bubonic plague and the Great Fire.

The effects of the plague, which reached its height in the summer and early autumn of 1665, can perhaps be exaggerated. The mortality was high (70,000 deaths) but plague was a common phenomenon and it probably had more effect on the poor than on the trading and governing classes (Pepys’s life was not disrupted).

The effects of the Fire (3-6 September) were more serious. Contemporaries estimated that it gutted most of the City and destroyed 13,200 houses, 89 churches and goods valued at £3.5m. London’s commerce was brought to a standstill for six months. Pepys gives the classic account.