At Creating Text(iles), a blog I’m very fond of, Ann noted that 2 September was the anniversary of the start of the Great Fire of London in 1666.
She had a link to this brief history of the fire. It repeats the common belief that the Fire halted the spread of the Great Plague by killing off the city’s rats (also here, here, and no doubt many other plaes online, often, I should point out, perfectly respectable sites).
Well, to continue a theme in recent posts, this is yet another of those Things We Forgot To Remember Properly. Firstly, the outbreak of plague in London had peaked a full year earlier. Secondly, the fire only really hit the City of London, and that part of London had not been among the areas worst hit by plague.
Debunkers here (you’ll need to scroll down), here, etc. This detailed essay about the patterns of plague outbreaks in 17th-century London contains a graph that clearly shows the peak in burials in around September 1665 (about half-way down the page).
Reading even a few sites on the Fire of 1666 throws up some painful parallels with much more recent events: a vulnerable city, warnings ignored, anti-fire measures neglected, a need afterwards to find scapegoats.