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‘A tour de force of biography, history, politics, philosophy and experimental science’ ECONOMIST

The remarkable and inspiring story of how London was transformed after the Great Fire of 1666 into the most powerful city in the world, and the men who were responsible for that achievement.

‘Wonderfully rich and informative … a rare achievement’ Tom Holland

‘Fascinating’ Lucy Moore

‘An ingenious and fluent overview of extraordinary men at an extraordinary moment, with St Paul’s standing as its symbolic heart’ SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

Opening in the 1640s, as the city was gripped in tumult leading up to the English Civil War, THE PHOENIX charts the lives and works of five extraordinary men, who would grow up in the chaos of a world turned upside down: the architect, Sir Christopher Wren; gardener and virtuosi, John Evelyn; the scientist, Robert Hooke; the radical philosopher, John Locke and the builder, Nicholas Barbon.

At the heart of the story is the rebuilding of London’s iconic cathedral, St Paul’s. Interweaving science, architecture, history and philosophy, THE PHOENIX tells the story of the formation of the first modern city.

Reviews

A truly inspiring story of human ingenuity and persistence in the face of disaster - and of how the future can be built out of the rubble of the past. On top of all that, it's hard to imagine a better introduction to the politics and culture of this glorious period in English history
Ross King
A wonderfully rich and informative book. To present deep scholarship so accessibly and with such fluency is a rare achievement
Tom Holland
This is a superlative book. Leo Hollis has that rare gift of making the complex, such as the nature of light and the complexity of national finance, comprehensible to the most lay of readers, whom he rewards - with no dumbing down - with fascinating details and characters
Liza Picard
In this fascinating, richly detailed account of how St Paul's rose from London's ashes after the Great Fire, Leo Hollis unravels what he calls this "puzzle in stone" to describe not just the new cathedral and its design and construction but also the complex politics, science and philosophy of the day and the ambitions of the extraordinary men who created the first truly modern city
Lucy Moore
A fascinating picture of the rebirth of London after the Fire and the men who made it happen, combining the history of ideas, architecture and the life of the city in a riveting narrative
Jenny Uglow
Makes us see St Paul's as if for the first time, a remarkable achievement
Jonathan Glancey
Leo Hollis has set himself a daunting task in giving us the biographies of five men, recounting the history of England...He has brought it off triumphantly. The entire work is written in lively modern English without a trace of scholastic starch as Hollis successfully juggles the lives of the men while riding the uneasy monocycle of 17th-century politics and religious debate to give us a thoroughly engrossing adventure story
SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY
A fascinating book
Peter Lewis, DAILY MAIL
An ingenious and fluent overview of extraordinary men at an extraordinary moment, with St Paul's standing as its symbolic heart
SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
In a vivid and engaging narrative, rich in detail, he describes the history of england from thr outbreak of the civil war to the birth of the empire, describing cultural and intellectual change as well as political and constitutional events
BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE
The political obstacles... and the social detail of modern London on the make are consistently fascinating
RA ARTS MAGAZINE
An enjoyable read
Lisa Jardine, GUARDIAN
Hollis weaves a lively tale of modern London's birth, beginning with a riveting street-by-street account of the fire as it spread from Thomas Farriner's bakery in Pudding Lane
SUNDAY TIMES
What makes this book so fascinating, though, is not just the rich detail, but also its explanations of the emergence of the new thinking that so profoundly shaped the spirit of the age
INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY
His book is a tour de force of biography, history, politics, philosophy and experimental science
ECONOMIST
Hollis is a historian with a novelist's eye for dramatic detail, and an infectious affection for both his subject and his five men. THE PHOENIX is an extremely entertaining work of popular history
CATHOLIC HERALD
With Hollis as our knowledgeable guide, we watch as a new, vigorous spirit pervades the City of London... It is this new, enthralling spirit, just as much as Wren's 'puzzle in stone', that is the true subject of Leo Hollis's fine book
MAIL ON SUNDAY