Today in World History: September 2nd

The Great Fire of London of 1666 began on this day, when a bakery in the center of London caught fire. The mayor of London at the time, Sir Thomas Bloodworth, could not decide on whether or not to order the destruction of buildings in the area, at that time the most effective firefighting method, and by that same night, a Sunday, when he finally gave the order, winds had blown the fire in the bakery into a firestorm. By Monday, much of London had been evacuated and the public had begun suspecting the French and Dutch immigrants of arson. Lynching of refugees from the two countries began and tension in the streets of London grew to a dangerous level, by which time King Charles II had ordered preventative measures to ensure a rebellion did not break out among the poorer citizens of London, those who had suffered most from the fire. Although the death toll has been estimated to be very low, tens of thousands of people in the Medieval center of London were displaced, many with their homes burnt to the ground or destroyed by London police and firefighters. Among some of the destroyed buildings in the center of London was St. Paul’s Cathedral, which went up in flames on Tuesday the 4th. The fire began to die down by that evening, with firefighters gaining control over the fire and ending it on the 5th of September, largely due to the end of the strong winds in London. The fire created a massive economical and social problem for England, as it brought to light the racial tension between the English citizens and the refugees from Europe, and saw the destruction of the world’s most important city in the world at that time.

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