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


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

ISBN13: 9780060014346
ISBN10: 0060014342
Condition: Standard
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The Black Death was the fourteenth century's equivalent of a nuclear war. It wiped out one-third of Europe's population, takingmillion lives. And yet, most of what we know about it is wrong. The details of the Plague etched in the minds of terrified schoolchildren — the hideous black welts, the high fever, and the 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.

Now, 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 as a gripping, intimate narrative.

About the Author

Norman F. Cantor is Emeritus Professor of History, Sociology, and Comparative Literature at New York University. His academic honors include appointments as a Rhodes Scholar, Porter Ogden Jacobus Fellow at Princeton University, and Fulbright Professor at Tel Aviv University. His previous books include Inventing the Middle Ages, nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and The Civilization of the Middle Ages, the most widely read narrative of the Middle Ages in the English language. He lives in southern Florida.

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Taynb, January 17, 2008 (view all comments by Taynb)
Norman Cantor writes about the the Black Plague with great detail. Describing the spread and the consequences of the socio economic devastation of the poorer classes that took a third of Europeans in the 14th Century. Also, theories of how some present day people are possibly immune to Aids from their ancestors who survived this plague, and how Ring a Ring o' Roses, a pocket full of posies has a different connotation once you have read this book.
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Shoshana, May 25, 2007 (view all comments by Shoshana)
I really enjoy books about the rise and spread of diseases and their effects on politics and culture. I read Hans Zinsser's Rats, Lice, and History at a young age; even as a child I recognized the skillfulness and clarity of his writing. Alas, Cantor's In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made is disorganized, repetitive, tangential, and unskillful. If a student handed it in as a manuscript, I'd hand it back with the request that s/he outline her work first. I am not exaggerating when I say that putting each paragraph on an index card, throwing the cards in the air, stacking them and recompiling the book in that order without adding transitions might be an organizational improvement. Topics are touched upon and discarded; paragraphs only peripherally related to the topic festoon the chapters like cobwebs; assertions are not backed up with evidence; ideas and statements are repeated. Why this was a New York Times bestseller I don't know, but I think less of us all that it was.

Cantor's rambling and disjointed text is neither a good introduction to the plague nor, as the title promises, an examination of its aftermath. Theories of the plague's constituents (Yersina pestis? Anthrax? Cosmic dust?) are raised and dropped at random. Some historical and economic information does address the purported topic, but is poorly written and appears in desultory fashion. The text is internally contradictory. Some sentences make no sense. It reads like a rambling professor's last lecture before retirement.

Odd ad hominem arguments and strange attributive statements mar the text further. Is it really that important to identify Richard II's homosexuality multiple times? To apparently blame people who had not yet invented empiricism for not understanding about germs? To somehow hold the Jews accountable for the misperception that they caused the plague? To criticize women for choosing chastity and the cloister when their rate of death in childbirth was so high? (Male clergy are not criticized for their chastity at all.) Lucy (the early human discovered by the Leakeys) is referred to as "the black mother of us all," a phrase in which the inclusion of "black" is superfluous and strange, and which occurs in the context of a several-page disquisition that has very little to do with the plague (and certainly nothing to do with its wake).

Do yourself a favor and avoid this like the... well, you know. Many books of much higher quality address the topic. As for this one, though I am a book packrat of problematic proportions, I'm tempted to throw it in my paper recycling bin it lest it fall into the hands of someone who can't critically evaluate it.
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Product Details

Cantor, Norman F.
Harper Perennial
by Norman Cantor
Cantor, Norman F.
New York
Forensic Medicine
Black death
World - General
Plague -- history.
Europe History.
World History-General
Edition Number:
1st Perennial ed.
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.00x5.34x.63 in. .45 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » History of Medicine
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Medical Specialties
History and Social Science » Western Civilization » Medieval
History and Social Science » World History » General
History and Social Science » World History » Medieval and Renaissance

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