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The Great Fire of London – 1666

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Hunting For A Scapegoat
Although some people recognised that the fire was an accident, and although Parliamentary and other investigations came to the same conclusions, many continued to search for a scapegoat. They found one in Robert Hubert, a Frenchmen who for some reason confessed to having started the Great Fire; at first he said he'd started it in Westminster, which the fire never even got near, but then changed his mind and opted for Farriner's bakery instead. Despite not even knowing where the bakery was, what it looked like or how to get there, hubert was found guilty and hanged.

Few contemporaries believed that Hubert was guilty and many further accusations were raised in the following months, but he was doomed by a combination of two factors: people wanted, perhaps needed, someone to blame and Hubert was foolish enough, and foreign enough, to fit. In addition, the group judging him contained three members of the Farriner family. They vehemently denied any wrongdoing and claimed to have doused the ovens properly, but for that to have been true – for the Great Fire to have been someone else's fault – they needed a scapegoat.

Catholics remained the favoured villain and accusations against them were added to the Monument in 1668: "...the most dreadful Burning of this City; begun and carried on by the treachery and malice of the Popish faction." Aside from the four years of James II's rule in 1685-89, the inscription remained until 1830. Bludworth's initially dismissive attitude saw him slandered as a Catholic who conspired to help the fire, and the fire itself soon became a key feature of anti-papal propaganda.

Long Term Consequences
London was the largest city in Europe by 1700. Huge amounts of migrant labour had been required for rebuilding and much of this stayed in the city, while large amounts of refugees stayed where they had fled; both factors created suburbs, a vastly extended city and a large market for trade and industry. This infusion of life made up for the damaged caused by plague in 1665 and, coupled with the money spent on rebuilding, reinvigorated the economy. Had London not suffered the Great Fire it almost certainly wouldn't have grown to the size and wealth it did by the start of the eighteenth century.

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