In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made

Norman F. Cantor, Author Free Press $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-684-85735-0
The author, currently an emeritus professor at New York University, has had a distinguished career as a medieval historian, and his textbook The Civilization of the Middle Ages has been popular with many students over many years. Here Cantor produces a popular account of one of the greatest disasters ever to befall the people of Europe. The great plague that struck in the mid-14th century, and returned intermittently for centuries thereafter, had a mortality rate of perhaps 40% and consequently ushered in several profound changes. Beginning with a biomedical survey of the disease, the author points out many problems with current beliefs about its origins, transmission and nature. He suggests that in many instances the likely cause of death was anthrax, which has the same initial symptoms as plague. The plague fell on all classes and regions, and the author uses the stories of several individuals to personalize the devastation and its consequences. He makes a particularly compelling case that the death of Thomas Bradwardine, newly consecrated archbishop of Canterbury, had deep repercussions for the development of both science and religion. In some instances the book raises points that deserve fuller treatment, such as the possible role of serpents in the transmission of plague, but the final chapter neatly summarizes the consequences of this calamity. This book will be welcomed by anyone who wants a good introduction to the topic. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 245 pages - 978-0-06-001434-6
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4391-3602-7
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-4767-9774-8
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