The Great Fire of London, by Stephen Porter

October 29, 2010 at 18:02 (Book Reviews, English History, Highly Rated Books, Historical) (, , , , )


It is always fun to see a book begin extremely pompously and pontifically, only to make a hilarious mistake, and I did enjoy how Porter began by referring magnificently to “the thirteenth book of Revelation”. I settled in for a long (or not so long) list of sonorously muddled history and grandiloquent mondegreens, and found instead an intelligent and exciting history of the Great Fire of London that was stunningly complete, considering the minute size of this book.

Porter might not be able to find 666 in his Bible, but he is certainly on top of 1666, and although his sources are oft-repeated this cannot be his fault, and his textual criticism is second to none. It seems unfair to criticise a book simply for being short, especially when it seems to cover its subject matter perfectly adequately in its brevity, and yet it must be noted that this is perhaps the shortest serious history book I have ever seen, much less read. Despite this, Porter has provided us with that rare jewel in reading history; an economic event that is not lost in the historian’s obfustication with numbers and figures, and yet not whitewashed with rude approximations.


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