In an experimental narrative for an academic historianblending some fiction with solid factsHatcher, of Cambridge University, offers a "literary docudrama" that looks at the lives off ordinary people during the Black Death that devastated Europe in the 1340s. Focusing on the English town of Walsham de Willows, Hatcher helps readers understand the deep terror that prevailed, including rumors of "awful omens, including rains of frogs, serpents, lizards, scorpions, and venomous beasts." He describes the plague itself, which caused coughing up of blood, carbuncles and boils on the neck, underarm and groin, and death in a few days. Especially affecting are accounts of the psychological agonies of those who, in a deeply religious age, saw their often delirious relatives die without proper confession. Finally, Hatcher notes the socioeconomic upheaval wrought by the plague, including poor people unexpectedly inheriting land from relatives killed by the plague, and a severe labor shortage as a third of Europe's population was wiped out.. While a glossary would have been helpful (will readers know what a "rood" of land or a "heriot" is?), this is a fine work that gives an intimate sense of the Black Death's horrors. Maps. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Black Death: A Personal Historyby John Hatcher
In this fresh approach to the history of the Black Death, John Hatcher, a world-renowned scholar of the Middle Ages, recreates everyday life in a mid-fourteenth century rural English village. By focusing on the experiences of ordinary villagers as they livedand diedduring the Black Death (1345–50 AD), Hatcher vividly places the reader directly into… See more details below
In this fresh approach to the history of the Black Death, John Hatcher, a world-renowned scholar of the Middle Ages, recreates everyday life in a mid-fourteenth century rural English village. By focusing on the experiences of ordinary villagers as they livedand diedduring the Black Death (1345–50 AD), Hatcher vividly places the reader directly into those tumultuous years and describes in fascinating detail the day-to-day existence of people struggling with the tragic effects of the plague. Dramatic scenes portray how contemporaries must have experienced and thought about the momentous eventsand how they tried to make sense of it all.
“This book uses a bit of fiction, mixing it with [Hatcher’s] vast knowledge to illuminate that catastrophe.”
Curled Up with a Good Book
“This book screams ‘docudrama.’ One wonders if it will be made into a TV mini-series, so vivid is its novelistic story line yet accurate its information…What Hatcher has done, and done well, is to tell the tale of the Black Plague that swept through Europe in the 14th century from the viewpoint of a single English village.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/7/09
“The core of the story the plague’s effect on the lives of everyday people is as true as can be surmised, nearly 700 years later.”
History in Review, 10/19/09
“Will enthrall both historians and fans of historical fiction…Provides a fascinating and unique glimpse into what life was like in rural, mediaeval England, during the 1345-1350 plague outbreak…An informative and entertaining book to read on the Black Death and, more important, on how it affected the common people.”
Metapsychology Online Reviews, 3/19/10
“The psychological turmoil for those living through the plague’s visitation and the terror, grief and horror such an experience engendered, are vividly brought to life in John Hatcher’s magisterial ‘personal history’…A fascinating and absorbing ‘literary docudrama’…of the profound effects of a calamitous and unfathomable event on both the individual and collective psyche…It is for his deliberately novel (and novelistic) approach that the author is to be particularly commended…Provides an admirable insight into how the majority of society struggled to make sense of a world turned upside down…Likely to appeal not only to historians of the Middle Ages and of medicine, but also to those interested in how individuals and communities alike cope with, respond to, and in many cases survive, catastrophic circumstances.”
- Da Capo Press
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Meet the Author
John Hatcher, a leading expert in medieval and early modern social and economic history, is Professor of Economic and Social History and Chairman of the History Faculty at the University of Cambridge.
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