The 1700s were a shameful time in London’s history. Although slavery was something that happened far away, on American cotton farms and West Indian sugar plantations, England had many critical, if slightly murkier, parts to play. From MPs owning Caribbean plantations to a newly-discovered British appetite for sugar, England was implicit in human slavery. This uncomfortable past touched much of British life, and was hidden in a great many everyday objects and institutions.
The Great Fire devastated London. There were few recorded deaths, but estimates put the destroyed property value at £10,000,000 (£1.5 billion in today’s money). From the ashes rose an unlikely development: the world’s first property insurance policies.