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The Day Parliament Burned Down.

The Day Parliament Burned Down. Caroline Shenton. Oxford University Press. [pounds sterling]18.99. xxii + 333 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-964670-8. The two great centres of government in England were both destroyed by fire. The Palace of Whitehall was burnt in 1698. The second fire occurred on 16-17 October 1834 when the Palace of Westminster was almost totally destroyed with the exception of Westminster Hall. In this detailed, 'you are there' history the author takes us through that night and morning and shows how the fire originated, how it spread, what it destroyed, whom it affected and how people coped. In the beginning pages the historic background sometimes intrudes into the narrative and later, when discussing the role of the Earl of Munster the author refers to him as being part of the Royal Family (which his birth made impossible). However these are minor criticisms of an engaging book. As the Parliamentary Archives' Clerk of the Records the author naturally pays much attention to the destruction of MSS (and interestingly of the definitive weights and measures stored in the old Palace) caused by the fire as well as the attempts to rescue them. In this last aspect her researches into the history of firemen and fire-fighting has paid off. Altogether this is good history and its attention to individual men and women retains the human touch. (E.B.)

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Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2012
Words:226
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