J D Davies

1666 And All That

Here we are, then: the week that sees the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, and the very day of publication for Death’s Bright Angel, the new Quinton book set against the backdrop of that cataclysmic event! I don’t intend to do another ‘sales pitch’ for the book here, but if you haven’t heard about it yet, you can read about it here, and read further extracts here and here. I’ll be talking about it at the Historical Novel Society conference in Oxford on Saturday 3 September, during the exact anniversary, and also hope to take in some of the many events that are taking place in London over the next few weeks. Whether they’ll let me in, given how controversial some of the material in the ‘historical investigation’ which concludes Death’s Bright Angel happens to be, might be a different matter…

Sadly, the fact I’ll be in Oxford means I’ll miss the event I most wanted to go to, the ‘Great Fire Reconsidered’ conference at St Paul’s. However, I’m looking forward to attending a talk on the subject by the conference’s joint organiser, Rebecca Rideal, next week, and was fortunate to be at Rebecca’s book launch in Dr Johnson’s House last Tuesday. Her new book, 1666: Plague, War and Hellfire, has been gaining a lot of media attention, and having been one of the critical readers for part of the text, I can vouch for the fact that it’s excitingly written and has a much broader sweep than is usual in many accounts of the period: above all, she gives proper weight to the naval war, and to the events that shape the narrative of the previous Quinton title, The Battle of All The Ages. Would that all historians who write about the 1660s did the same!

I also recently attended the launch event in Southend for the London Shipwreck Trust. This is a really exciting development for those interested in seventeenth century naval history, or in seventeenth century life generally: the wreck of the warship London is producing many fantastic finds which shed important light on the period. Built under the Commonwealth, the London blew up suddenly in the Thames estuary in March 1665, as the fleet was being fitted out at the beginning of the second Anglo-Dutch war; her destruction features in the third Quinton novel, The Blast That Tears The Skies. It’s hoped that many of the finds will have a home in a new museum in Southend, and the ‘mood music’ at the launch event was certainly encouraging. I’d strongly urge all followers of this blog to sign up to support Steve Ellis and his highly committed team!

Meanwhile, I’ve been quieter than usual on the blogging and social media fronts recently because I’ve been hard at work on my new non-fiction book for Seaforth Publishing, Kings of the Sea: Charles II, James II and the Royal Navy. Due for publication in the summer of next year, this is likely to ruffle a few feathers, too (I’m definitely in feather-ruffling mode these days). But it’s a book that tackles big themes and contains a lot of little known or previously unknown evidence, so it’s taking a great deal of time and effort.

Next week, I hope to report on the HNS conference in Oxford, but for some of the posts immediately after that, I’m lining up an exciting series of guest blogs – more information here soon!