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London in Flames

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The Historic Impact of London's Fires

by Anna Milford

“A WOMAN might piss it out”, sneered Lord Mayor Thomas Bludworth, dismissing the outbreak that blazed into the Great Fire. London had burned before, and would do so again

Old hazards from overcrowding, jerrybuilding and social unrest were later fuelled by gas, electricity and petrol – risks multiplied by Twentieth Century toxic chemicals and nuclear waste

Raging fires overwhelmed the puny efforts of parish squirts and bucket chains, until enlightened Seventeenth Century speculators set up the first insurance offices. Their firemen served London, until these private brigades finally merged to form the Metropolitan Fire Brigade in 1866

Anna Milford traces the capital's history through its fires, four of them deliberate and deadly. It is the story of reformers and eccentrics, rogues and heroes highlighted against the flames.

* Dark Ages lit by Fire
* Medieval London
* Parish Pumps and Merchant Adventurers
* The Noisome Pestilence - the Plague
* Tthe devouring Element - the Great Fire
* Business (almost) as usual
* Out of the Ashes
* Fire offices and Fire Brigades 
* Age of Enlightenment and the Gordon Riots
* Palaces, Castles and Fire Island
* The Risk Business
* Victorian London
* Foes of the Fire King
* The Crystal Palace
* Playing with Fire - Theatres
* Going to Blazes - Fire Horses and Fire Dogs
* Fire knows no Frontiers
* Time of Transition - the Great War
* The Blitz
* The Flaming Future

* Major fires in the United Kingdom AD61 - 1997
* Chief Officers of London's fire services 1833-1986
* Designations of London's fire services 1866-1986

* Books written about fire 1603-1997

Detailed index

Other cities have burned, but not as frequently or disastrously as London. The city is a good example of the impact and impetus fires have had on history. Its early growth as a trading centre led to warehouses packed with combustible merchandise. If trade followed the flag, then fire followed trade. Before the Great Fire, many of the buildings were little better than those of shantytowns. Following it, enlightened 17th-century speculators set up the first insurance offices - their firemen serving London until the creation of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade in 1866. The battle against flames restructured local government. This is a story of reformers and eccentrics, rogues and heroes, concluding with the bravery and sacrifice of today's fire-fighters.

221 pages paperback 60 illustrations