Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire and Revolution
20 November 2015 – 28 March 2016
Using extracts from his personal diary this exhibition tells the story of one of the most colourful characters of the 17th century and the many great events he witnessed in Stuart Britain.
On 1 January 1660, while aboard the ship that carried Charles II from exile, Samuel Pepys started to write a diary. It was a practice he would continue for the next ten years, documenting key events such as the restoration of the monarchy, the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London in meticulous detail. His candid account of this tumultuous period has earned him recognition as one of the most important British diarists of all time.
Pepys was a fascinating character; despite having no maritime experience he became chief secretary to the admiralty under King Charles II – and later King James II – through hard work and natural aptitude. As well as his abilities as a naval mastermind, he was a notorious gossip, socialite and womaniser with a taste for extravagance. This exhibition at the National Maritime Museum explores life in the mid 17th century from his unique perspective.
Over 200 exhibits from across Britain and beyond breathe life into the stories from Pepys’ diary. For example, the life-threatening operation he underwent – without anaesthetic – to remove a bladder stone the size of a snooker ball is graphically documented through medical instruments, while Robert Hooke’s Micrographia – described by Pepys as ‘the most ingenious book that ever I read in my life’ – accounts for the spirit of scientific discovery.