Monday, 14 September 2020

Fire and Plague

 On this day in 1666, the Great Fire of London was still raging, two days after it began, and scenes of devastation lay all around. 'London was, but it is no more,' wrote John Evelyn, summing up the destruction. Thirteen thousand houses, 87 churches, 50 livery halls, the Guildhall and four bridges had been destroyed, and a hundred thousand people made homeless, by the time it burnt itself out. 
  London rose from the ashes, of course, renewed and rebuilt as a Baroque city of brick and stone. And among the other good things that, paradoxically, came of the Great Fire was an end to the Plague that had been scything its way through the population ever since the previous summer. The death toll, in recorded deaths, was nearly 70,000; actual deaths might well have numbered 100,000 – this out of a total population of around half a million. So around fifteen to twenty per cent of London's population had died.  Today that figure would be somewhere around a million and a half to two million deaths.
  How does our current 'plague', Covid-19, compare? The figure for deaths in London is below 7,000, which is around 0.08 per cent (and that's the number of deaths from any cause within 28 days of testing positive, so the real figure is probably a good deal lower). That's the kind of statistic that puts things in perspective. Or should do. 


  1. Nigel, the Great Fire began on 2 September not 12th, but your point stands of course

  2. Whoops! So it did. Last time I rely on that particular source...


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