The Great Fire of London in September 1666 is one of the most significant events in the history of the capital of the (former) British Empire. (1) It followed on from a huge plague epidemic in 1665, which killed some 100,000 people (2) and series of very hot and dry summers. (3)
It is usually ascribed to being a terrible accident at the bakery of Thomas Farriner in Pudding Lane near the docks lining the river Thames. However it is difficult to credit the claim made by Ackroyd that it ‘just happened’ (4) since, as Hanson observes, while we don’t (and won’t ever) definitely know the cause: we can speculate on the basis of the evidence. (5)
The idea that ‘it just happened’ is quite frankly absurd for much the same reason as stating that we shouldn’t seek to theorize who Jack the Ripper was. We won’t ever know who, or whom, committed the Whitechapel murders for sure, but it doesn’t stop us proposing suspects and looking for evidence to identify them with the legendary Ripper.
Should we stop looking for the real Jack the Ripper?
Well then we shouldn’t accept that the Great Fire of London ‘just happened’ either.