The Great Fire, which was finally extinguished 350 years ago today, not only destroyed the homes and livelihoods of thousands of people but also was a significant threat to the government of the country, destroying law courts and sources of taxation and risking the defensive symbol of the nation itself, the Tower of London.
Together with a dedicated group of volunteers, I am currently cataloguing entries from the registers of the Privy Council (PC 2) for the 1630s. 1Â The Council managed the business of government on behalf of the king. Its registers record drafts of letters, proclamations and warrants issued to ensure the smooth running of the kingdom. They have been published as full transcripts in the Acts of the Privy Council series up until 1631, but the only way currently to search the subsequent registers is through indexes at the end of each volume or by browsing by date.
Having become aware of the vast array of business passing before the Council, I took a look at the register for 1666 to see how the Privy Council responded to the critical emergency of the Great Fire in its immediate aftermath. Was it a 17thÂ century COBRAÂ meeting, managing every element of the response to the crisis, or did the real management happen elsewhere? Was the primary response humanitarian or materialistic? Continue reading »