The Great Plague and Fire of London Essay Example
England during the 17th century was a time of disease and destruction. During this time, the bubonic plague killed thousands of Londoners and a massive fire destroyed the majority of the city. This era can be examined by studying London itself, events of the plague, and the incident of the fire.
London during the mid-1660s was filthy; its streets were teeming with garbage, sewage, excrement, and other waste. The waste from the streets would end up going into the Thames river, contaminating it with garbage.i Among all of this trash, more than 460,000 people were living in loud, overcrowded, and unsanitary conditions in London.ii These people were also the ones who were using the contaminated river water for cooking, drinking, and bathing. For times in which a highly contagious plague (named the Black Death) was common, the tight and filthy conditions people lived in were not safe. The city’s streets were filled with rats and stray dogs and cats, which created the perfect setting for a massive outbreak of the disease. Also, not only did London have horrific conditions but its size, constant growth, and the different authorities responsible for its government also made it a greater problem than other towns.iii London, however, had endured several outbreaks of the plague before 1665, but it had been free of it for 10 years.iv Many Londoners in the spring of 1665 were predicting an outbreak to happen soon, despite 20 years being the average interval between plague outbreaks.v
London in the summer of 1666, was going through another rough time. On top of its hot summer temperatures, the city was suffering through a drought. Also, London's buildings had timber structures and many had wooden porches facing each other.vi This hot, dry, and wooden setting made London at a severe risk for catching on fire. Londoners were worried that if a fire ever ignited it would spread so easily to everything and would be difficult to extinguish. With limited water, and only a few fire trucks a large-scale fire would be nearly impossible to put out. In order to try to prevent such a destructive fire from happening laws requiring buckets of water to be kept by every door, ladders to be ready, and axes, and firehooks to be placed in churches. Despite these laws, people still ignored them and found other uses for the buckets, ladders, and axes. With wooden homes, hot temperatures, lacking water, and unprepared people London was going to suffer immensely during the Great Fire of London.
In 1665, London was devastated by the Bubonic plague also known as the Black Death.