The Third Disaster

The middle of the seventeenth century was a terrible time for London. It suffered the worst outbreak of plague which killed about a quarter of its population ie 100,000. Then there was the great fire

Less known is that these coincided with the war against the Dutch from June 1665 which began with a victory off Lowestoft, followed by several inconclusive skirmishes till De Ruyter led a fleet of 60 or 70 ships of the line guided by exiled republicans, into The Thames as far as Gravesend. They destroyed 14 great ships at Chatham and in the Medway and took Sheerness.

The invaders held the mouth of the Thames till the end of the month. In the greatest naval humiliation they towed England’s flagship the state of the art Royal Charles back to The Netherlands. This left England near helpless but the Dutch invasion was an attempt to stop England joining the Spanish invading their country .

The war was of benefit to the regional ports who had struggled to survive against the London monopolies. Their construction trades also expanded in supporting the rebuilding of London and regional tradesmen found plenty of well paid work there. Many merchants in regional ports were able to expand their trade both locally and internationally. This was when the African Slave trade got underway.

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