Print Culture and the Rebuilding of London after the Fire: The Presumptuous Proposals of Valentine Knight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Histories of the Great Fire of London regularly mention and reproduce Valentine Knight's scheme for London's reconstruction, published in 1666, and note that he was imprisoned for his pains. His proposal, with new streets laid out on a rough grid and a canal through the heart of the city, has attained a walk-on part in longue durée histories of urban planning. However, Knight has remained a mysterious and little studied figure; the significance of his imprisonment and of the fact that his was the only scheme to be published remain unexplored. By reconstructing his biography and discovering the reason for his incarceration, and by relating his and the other proposals for the rebuilding of the capital after the fire to the history of public opinion, this article uses this episode to explore the tacit rules governing the discussion of public affairs in Restoration England. Further, by examining the publication history of all the immediate post-fire schemes for rebuilding London from 1666 to 1750, it traces how architectural plans gradually became objects for critical discussion in the worlds of print and periodical.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1–26
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of British Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

© The North American Conference on British Studies, 2017. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • Christopher Wren
  • Great Fire
  • John Evelyn
  • London
  • Valentine Knight
  • history of taste
  • print culture
  • public sphere
  • re-building of London

Cite this