Saturday, 5 June 2010

In the Wake of a Review

Norman F. Cantor's In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World it Made is really wonderful. If you're a medievalist or just have an interest in the Black Death. Keep in mind though- that whilst this is technically a book about the Great Pestilence, it is first a book about the effect that it had on Europe. The first chapter deals with different ideas laid forth about what exactly the Black Death was.

But isn't it common knowledge that the Black Death was Bubonic Plague, spread from the port cities by Black Rats? Well. Possibly. Maybe. A little bit. But the chance that that was ALL it was is very very tiny. (My vote goes to Anthrax) Example A being that Iceland never had a black rat until long after the 1340s. Examples B-? are too numerous to present here. So read the book, and if your interest is piqued, check out the bibliography. Much of the rest of the book looks at how the different strata of society dealt with the Plague and how those living (and dying) through it perceived it to be spread. (Obviously it was the Jews and the Lepers poisoning the water sources.)

The Second section of the book is not quite as good. It looks at plagues through history, which is interesting, and postulates that maybe they were caused by events in outer space. Which seems a bit far fetched, even after reading the arguments. Over all, I really enjoyed reading this book. The biggest drawback is needing to constantly read past whatever it is that Cantor has against the Church. That was kind of annoying.

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