Black Deathby Phillip Ziegler
Described by the Guardianwhen it was first published as 'as exciting and readable account as you could wish', this new edition of the major study on the subject is illustrated by over seventy contemporary black and white illustrations. The text and pictures together offer vivid insights into this unparalleled human disaster: it is a book which will be as much wanted by the general reader into fourteenth century history as by a specialist; its fully documented economic, historical and social details complemented by this acclaimed author's accessible style.
- Sterling Publishing
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Philip Ziegler's history of the plague that struck Europe in the fourteenth century is a great academic piece. He examins many aspects of the era, always prodding for the cause and effect results. His use of the fictional town in the book does not retract from his overall success, but rather enhances the readers enjoyment of it. His conclusions of the effects the plague had on the Church are generally well thought out and correct, but I do take issue with one of his assertions. He states, possibly off the cuff, that the plague in some way made man question transbustantiation of the eurcharist. I'm not 100% sure of this assertion or his ability to prove it. The arguement over transubstantiation seems to really come out of the sixteenth century, when a large body of religiously minded clerics and priests began to question the doctrine. He uses many statistics which give weight to his arguement, but also makes it dry at times. This book is quite useful for academic purposes, but I do not believe everyday history buffs will like the work entirely. Ziegler's greatest accomplishment is how he presents the plague's effect on people, culture, class, and order. The medieval mind was much more complicated, as he points out, and was subject to the terrors of the plague. It was a turning point in history, not because it made revolutions, but because it planted the seeds of questioning and discord. The plague did not lead to the problems which faced Europeans after 1349, but played an instrumental role in those challenges. Overall this is a good book and one that serves well the historical discussion on the plague.