From the Brink of the Apocalypse: Confronting Famine, War, Plague, and Death in the Later Middle Ages

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Europe during the later Middle Ages was a scene of unparalleled chaos. At no other time in history did so much misery—in the form of war, famine, plague, and death—descend upon the earth. At times it must have seemed like the end of the world was truly at hand. And yet, as John Aberth reveals in this lively work, a firm belief in the ways of providence and the first stirrings of greater political freedom allowed communities to endure. Far from conventional notions of the "waning" of the Middle Ages, John Aberth ...
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FROM THE BRINK OF THE APOCALYPSE -: Confronting Famine, War, Plague and Death in the Later Middle Ages

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Overview

Europe during the later Middle Ages was a scene of unparalleled chaos. At no other time in history did so much misery—in the form of war, famine, plague, and death—descend upon the earth. At times it must have seemed like the end of the world was truly at hand. And yet, as John Aberth reveals in this lively work, a firm belief in the ways of providence and the first stirrings of greater political freedom allowed communities to endure. Far from conventional notions of the "waning" of the Middle Ages, John Aberth reveals here a world with fears, hopes, and passions that we recognize as our own.

Relying on rich literary and historical sources, John Aberth brings this period vividly to life. Taking his themes from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, he describes how the Great Famine and Black Death swept away nearly half of Europe's population, while the royal houses of England and France were engaged in a Hundred Years War that meant perpetual political strife. Above all loomed the specter of Death, ever present and constantly feared. Throughout the later Middle Ages, ordinary people were transformed by this daunting and fearful series of crises, yet in their prayers, chronicles, poetery, and especially their commemorative art are foreshadowings of the age to come. As John Aberth reveals in this informative and sympathetic work, in their struggles we glimpse the birth of the modern.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In A Distant Mirror, Barbara Tuchman painted a vivid portrait of the miseries that afflicted 14th-century Europe. In this new popular history, Aberth (Criminal Churchmen in the Age of Edward III) has extended northern Europe's misery time line through most of the 15th century. Aberth organizes his work by the four defining characteristics of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse: famine, war, plague, and death. The devastation wrought by the bubonic plagues and the Hundred Years War between England and France had convinced many people of the time that the Apocalypse was imminent. The end of the world did not come in 1400, as some churchmen had predicted, but the calamities of war, disease, famine, and death continued to afflict France, England, and the Low Countries for most of the 15th century. Historians have recently begun to question the long-held assumption that the late Middle Ages were a period of decline. Aberth believes that the continuing confrontations with disaster had, by the 15th century, begun to transform people's ideas and beliefs and set the stage for the transition to the modern age. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.--Robert J. Andrews, Duluth P.L., MN Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
It was a firm belief in the ways of providence and the first stirrings of greater political freedom, says Aberth (history, U. of Nebraska), that allowed European communities to endure the full share and more of misery that befell them during the later Middle Ages. He takes his themes from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to describe responses to the Great Famine and the Black Death that swept away nearly half of the continent's population, while English and French leaders occupied themselves with the Hundred Years War. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415927154
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/2000
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue. Famine. War. Plague. Death. Epitaph. Bibliography. Index.

Abreth wears his very considerable and up-to-date scholarchip lightly and his study of a series of complex and somber calamites is made remarkably vivid. Not the least virture of his lively hood is the way it places the characteristic literature and art of the period, from fourteenth-century mystical writing to fifteenth-century rombs, into a secure historical context.The quthor's own enthusiasm for plague and assoicate calamities in late medieval England and France should prove highly contagious (Barrie Dobson, Honorary Professor of History, University of York)

Aberths' informative and orignally shaped volume is well tailored to bring out the dynamic of man's struggle with his environment in the last two medieval centuries. In his story, War Plague and Famine play very full parts, and the treatment here of the medieval attidude to Death, the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse, is especially well presented (Maurice Keen, fellow, Balliol College, Oxford)

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