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By Permission of Heaven: The True Story of the Great Fire of London
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By Permission of Heaven: The True Story of the Great Fire of London

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  211 ratings  ·  22 reviews
A work of dynamic history that depicts in fascinating detail the cataclysm that was the Great Fire of London and the modern European capital that rose from its ashes.
"By Permission of Heaven" is a thrilling account of the Great Fire of London that makes terrific use of a vast array of first-person accounts and forensic investigation. The result is an impeccable achieveme
Hardcover, 331 pages
Published January 5th 2004 by Riverhead Books (first published 2003)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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Start your review of By Permission of Heaven: The True Story of the Great Fire of London
A solid account of the events leading up to the Great Fire with chapters following its course and then the aftermath.

But why three stars? Well I liked it but unlike the blurb it didn't grip me. It was well researched, and as Andrew Holgate of The Sunday Times says "the fresh emphasis he places on its fallout" were strengths and new things for this reader, but I did find myself at times wanting to be finished with it.

The lead up is well paced and does provide a useful overview and condition of B
Apr 17, 2012 rated it liked it
By Permission of Heaven gets 3 Stars for a well-rounded look at the 1666 Great Fire of London. Tinniswood takes us on a tour of middle 17th Century England just prior to the fire. England is at war with the Dutch and French. London has just suffered (and continues to suffer) under the plague (in 1665, over 7,000 people per week died of the plague in London). It is only 6 years since Charles II was restored to the throne. The heir to the throne is married to a Catholic and is suspected to be a Ca ...more
Mar 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, read-in-2010
This is an excellent piece of history, a gripping hour-by-hour account of the Great Fire of London and its aftermath. The descriptions, many of them taken from diaries of the period, make you feel like you were really there. London was completely trashed -- picture New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, except with fire instead of flood. Yet, surprisingly, there were very few fatalities (perhaps a dozen or less), and London as a whole displayed admirable fortitude in coping with the disaster; it w ...more
Dec 02, 2019 rated it liked it
"By Permission of Heaven" is described as "spellbinding history." I would certainly say that the book is very interesting and informative, and some of it is indeed fascinating, but much of it is just plain tedious. I learned a few things about Stuart London that I hadn't known before, and what Tinniswood shares with the reader about firefighting technology of the time and the various characters involved, the guilds, the progress of the fire, etc., makes for some enthralling bits and pieces. But ...more
Apr 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A rattling good read. This is the story of the period leading up to London's Great Fire, the terrifying and confused days of the fire itself, and then the aftermath. Tinniswood has pieced together the human, political and economic consequences of this cataclysm in a measured, yet gripping fashion, recreating the period in telling detail. Who knew, for instance, that the clothworkers of Coventry would suffer so from the consequences of the fire? They'd just send down a £2000 consignment of cloth ...more
Jerry Smith
Dec 07, 2009 rated it liked it
In depth account of the Great Fire of London with a lot of detailed context and personalities. Sets the scene of the conflagration very well, England essentially (as we always have really) warring with the rest of Europe - notably the Dutch and French at this time.

There is a lot to learn about this fascinating period of English history and this book puts the fire in context. As a result there is a lot to read and the historical events are woven into the story of the fire that lasted several days
Einar Jensen
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
Too often author Adrian Tinniswood adds too many tangential details to his narrative of the 1666 Great Fire of London. His book, By Permission of Heaven, is interesting but he included plenty of unnecessary information such as who was buried at churches that burned and why that person was famous. For example, “It was up to the men at the Temple Bar fire post to prevent the fire from breaking through and moving up the Strand to the gates of Whitehall itself. They were supervised by Lord Belayse, ...more
To say this is exhaustive is an understatement. I feel like I know everything there is to know about every brick and scorched and scruffy Londoner. I found it detracted from the overall narrative unfortunately and it felt like a slog, despite it being about a massive fire. Maybe I'm just thick and need my history span around a pretty narrative.
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
This was a little boring. It spent too much time on the politics of reconstruction, which doesn’t really interest me.
A solid history of the 1666 fire, but also the surrounding context and immediate repercussions. I especially appreciated how the author illustrated the role of racism and religious conflict in the reaction to the fire - goes to show how history continues to repeat itself.
Mercedes Rochelle
Aug 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
The story of the Great Fire of London is much more complicated that I originally supposed. I did not realize that England was at war with the Dutch even as the fire started, and this hostility amplified an event already chaotic to the average Londoner. I also didn’t know that the country was in the grip of an extraordinary gale which blew for days and was probably the prime reason the flames spread so relentlessly. What looks to us like a horrific natural disaster was taken in a different contex ...more
Aug 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An enjoyable, readable and informative story of the Great Fire of London of September 1666 (350 years ago as I write).
It includes a brief introduction to the historical background (a serious outburst of plague in 1665 and war with the Dutch), which helps put the fire in context, and also several chapters about the aftermath, not just in terms of the rebuilding, but also political and cultural responses, with brief comment about key characters.
Although written for the general reader with the bri
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was my introduction to Adrian Tinniswood's work. If you could go back in time and experience the fire for yourself you would not have a better insight into the devastation. We are given experiences and vantage points from all walks of life, from kings to common people, as well as the attitudes and prejudices that fed the fire as surely as the wooden buildings.
Mar 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scholarly but readable; author includes amazing information about the fire, its context, and its aftermath. I can now recognize the thinking of the time which said that there MUST have been involvement from the Dutch and French. The history I used to teach has come alive while I have been reading this book.
Avis Black
Oct 28, 2012 marked it as dnf
The author spends too much time on boring side details and not enough on fighting the fire, so the book lacks drama.
iain meek
Jul 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Well researched and written. Fascinating to discover that many at the time regarded it as a Popish plot.
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting documentary mixed with anecdotes of day to day life in the times and political background.
Susan Abernethy
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book. Read it a few years ago and am re-reading as research for a blog post on the The Great Fire. Really well written.
Jan 13, 2011 is currently reading it
Interesting read especially for someone interested in the history of London
May 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
fascinating, vastly concise, great historical reference.
Apr 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Well-researched, wonderfully readable, Tinniswood's prose really brings the Great Fire of London to life. Highly recommended.
Roderick Ellem
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A very good general history of the great fire. Easy to read and enjoyable.
Steve Davenport
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Aug 28, 2014
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Aug 17, 2015
Rebecca Huston
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Sep 08, 2010
rated it it was ok
Aug 30, 2016
Sushaal Charan
rated it it was ok
Sep 06, 2018
Ian Tanner
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Jan 22, 2019
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Nov 01, 2011
rated it it was amazing
Jun 16, 2017
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Adrian Tinniswood has worked as an author, broadcaster, lecturer and educational consultant for nearly 30 years in both Britain and the United States. Tinniswood studied English and Philosophy at Southampton University and was awarded an MPhil at Leicester University.

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