In 1666 England was still feeling the effects of the English Civil War. The war had started in 1642 and years of violence and instability between those loyal to the Crown (Royalists) and those who supported Parliament (Parliamentarians) had followed. After the Commonwealth government (1649-60) collapsed, King Charles II had been restored to the throne. However, old rivalries and loyalties still divided people, both religiously and politically.
At various times in the 1600s, England had been at war with the Netherlands, France and Spain. In 1666, the country was fighting both France and the Netherlands and English troops burned down the Dutch town of West-Terschelling in August 1666.
The context of all these wars cuts through the story of the Great Fire. As a result of the conflicts there was much mistrust and prejudice against foreign residents in London.
Hostility was particularly strong against the French, as France was a Catholic nation and seen by many Protestant Londoners as a real threat. As the fire took hold of London, false rumours spread that it had been started as part of a foreign attack.