In the Wake of the Plague

In the Wake of the Plague

The Black Death and the World It Made

Book - 2001
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Much of what we know about the greatest medical disaster ever, the Black Plague of the fourteenth century, is wrong. The details of the Plague etched in the minds of terrified schoolchildren -- the hideous black welts, the high fever, and the final, awful end by respiratory failure -- are more or less accurate. But what the Plague really was, and how it made history, remain shrouded in a haze of myths.

Norman Cantor, the premier historian of the Middle Ages, draws together the most recent scientific discoveries and groundbreaking historical research to pierce the mist and tell the story of the Black Death afresh, as a gripping, intimate narrative.

"In the Wake of the Plague" presents a microcosmic view of the Plague in England (and on the continent), telling the stories of the men and women of the fourteenth century, from peasant to priest, and from merchant to king. Cantor introduces a fascinating cast of characters. We meet, among others, fifteen-year-old Princess Joan of England, on her way to Spain to marry a Castilian prince; Thomas of Birmingham, abbot of Halesowen, responsible for his abbey as a CEO is for his business in a desperate time; and the once-prominent landowner John le Strange, who sees the Black Death tear away his family's lands and then its very name as it washes, unchecked, over Europe in wave after wave.

Cantor argues that despite the devastation that made the Plague so terrifying, the disease that killed more than 40 percent of Europe's population had some beneficial results. The often literal demise of the old order meant that new, more scientific thinking increasingly prevailed where church dogma had once reigned supreme. In effect, the BlackDeath heralded an intellectual revolution. There was also an explosion of art: tapestries became popular as window protection against the supposedly airborne virus, and a great number of painters responded to the Plague. Finally,

Publisher: New York : Free Press, c2001
ISBN: 9780684857350
Branch Call Number: 616.923 C23i
940.1 C23i
Characteristics: 245 pages, [8] pages of plates : illustrations, 1 map ; 23 cm


From Library Staff

A gripping and moving account of the Black Death taken from the latest scientific research. If you prefer a fictional account, try Geraldine Brooks' A Year of Wonders. This would be a good book for fans of Barbara Tuchman.

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Dec 10, 2019

Just what I was looking for to get an idea of the social impacts of the plague. There is quite a lot of rich detail about social and even climatic history of the 13th and 14th centuries. I learned a lot.

Dec 30, 2014

Well researched and presented. Not only does Cantor illustrate the attitudes and living conditions of those born into 14th century Europe, but he also convincingly explains how history was changed by the great plague.

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