The Great Fire, 1666, and the conspiracy mentalitiè in Restoration England

Marshall, A (2016) The Great Fire, 1666, and the conspiracy mentalitiè in Restoration England. In: The Great Fire: Reconsidered, 3 September 2016, St Paul’s Cathedral, London, UK.

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How was the conflagration that struck London in September 1666 seen within the conspiracy mentalitiè that undoubtedly existed in the era of Restoration Britain? The cultural idea of conspiracy - the plot mentalitiè itself - had its historical roots in the history of the well-known Catholic conspiracies against Elizabeth I, and in the most famous plot of the seventeenth-century, celebrated each year on 5 November: Gunpowder Treason. And the conspiratorial version of the events of the Great Fire were soon seen as part of this arc of contemporary conspiratorial and secret history. It became part of the ’elaborate fables’, accepted due to the anxieties of the age. Ultimately, the belief in plot explained why things went wrong and it also provided easy solutions to the chaotic nature of politics and society of the era and to its complex day-to-day questions. The Great Fire also resonated in the era of the Popish Plot of 1678-9, and it made influential appearances in that era’s contemporary newssheets, pamphlets, letters, trial records, and diaries, as well as on the stage, as part of the ‘true’ explanation for otherwise inexplicable and disturbing events. This short paper will consequently seek to place the Great Fire of London within the constructed narratives of conspiracy, plot, secret histories, and espionage in the Restoration era. It will explore this narrative’s creation and its reception as a cultural idea.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

A blog post by Alan Marshall covering the content of the presentation is available to read at the URL above.

Keywords: Great Fire; London history; plots and conspiracies; Restoration;plot mentalitiè;secret histories
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
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Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2016 10:02
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:44
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