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Probably the greatest natural disaster to ever curse humanity, the Black Death's lethality is legendary, killing between a quarter to over half of any given stricken area's population. Though historians suspect a first wave of bubonic plague struck the Mediterranean area between 571 - 760 C.E., there is no doubt that the plague was carried west by the Mongol Golden Horde in the late 1340s as they raided as far west as Constantinople, where it is believed that Genoese traders became infected, and then carried, the disease into European and northern African ports after their escape. Within about two years practically the entire European continent and much of North Africa had been burned over by this disaster of apocalyptic proportions.
Eight thematic chapters guide the reader through the medical perspective of the plague— medieval and modern—and to the plague's impact on society, cities, individuals, and art of the time. Medieval doctors named miasmatic vapors—bad air —as a primary cause of infection, along with an improper balance of the four Humors—blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile, often caused by ominous astrological alignments; or so they believed. Scapegoats, often Jews, were persecuted and murdered as frightened people desperately sought somebody to blame for the spread of the plague. Others assumed the plague was God's punishment of wicked humanity, and roamed the countryside in groups that would flagellate themselves publicly as an act of atonement. An annotated timeline guides the reader to the key events and dates of this recurring disaster. Nine illustrations show how artists represented the plague's impact on the self and society. Twelve primary documents, half of them never before translated into English, come from eyewitnesses ranging from Constantinople, Damascus, Prague, Italy, France, Germany, and England. A glossary is provided that enables readers to quickly look up unfamiliar medical and historical terms and concepts such as Bacillus, Verjuice, and Peasants' Revolt of 1381. An annotated bibliography follows, divided by topic. The work is fully indexed.
|Ch. 1||Overview : plague in the Middle Ages||1|
|Ch. 2||The Black Death and modern medicine||15|
|Ch. 3||The Black Death and medieval medicine||33|
|Ch. 4||Effects of the Black Death on European society||57|
|Ch. 5||Psychosocial reactions to the Black Death||73|
|Ch. 6||European art and the Black Death||89|
|Ch. 7||Individual and civic responses in Cairo and Florence||103|
|Ch. 8||Epilogue : the end of the Black Death and its continuing fascination||123|
|Abu Abdullah ibn Battuta||131|
|Francesco di Marco Datini da Prato||137|
|Galen of Pergamum||140|
|Gentile da Foligno||142|
|Lisad-ad Din ibn al-Khatib||143|
|Alexandre Emile John Yersin||147|
|1||The description of the pestilence : from the Historiarum (after 1355)||151|
|2||"Wer wil nu wissen das" (c. 1349-55)||154|
|3||Plague tract (1348)||155|
|4||Compendium de epidemia, book 2 (1348)||159|
|5||"A diet and doctrine for the pestilence" (fifteenth century)||162|
|6||The treatise on the pestilence in Italian : chapter 2 (c. 1447)||167|
|7||Last testament of Marco Datini of Prato, Italy, June 1, 1348||170|
|8||"Risalah al-Naba' 'an al-Waba'" : an essay on the report of the pestilence (1348)||173|
|9||Anonymous poem in the Chronicle of Damascus, 1389-97||178|
|10||"Disputation betwixt the body and worms"||179|
|11||The Jews of Strassburg, February 1349||186|
|12||A Florentine diary : December 1496 to February 1499||189|
Posted April 10, 2007
The Black Death relives the horrors of a wide-spread disease outbreak that ended up taking thousands of people's lives. The book analyzes physicians, historians, and scientists' viewpoints and thoughts about the plague outburst and its outcome. It thoroughly studies all the facets of the plague, such as possible numbers of population that died, by comparing a number of people's opinions. Joseph P. Byrne reminds us of the shock and pain that these people living at this time had to endure, and really gives us a look at what people back then did in response by presenting pictures and poems that captured their emotions, thoughts, and pain. This helped the author convey this despair and made it seem as real as ever. The book also viewed the responses and effects of this plague on European society and on the art made during this time. In addition, it offers reasons as to why the plague came and left, and the differing thoughts on that. This is a great book if you really want to look at all parts of the Black Death and how it has impacted the world today.
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Posted May 25, 2010
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