The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time (P.S. Series)
  • The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time (P.S. Series)
  • The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time (P.S. Series)

The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time (P.S. Series)

4.7 8
by John Kelly
     
 

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La moria grandissima began its terrible journey across the European and Asian continents in 1347, leaving unimaginable devastation in its wake. Five years later, twenty-five million people were dead, felled by the scourge that would come to be called the Black Death. The Great Mortality is the extraordinary epic account of the worst natural

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Overview

La moria grandissima began its terrible journey across the European and Asian continents in 1347, leaving unimaginable devastation in its wake. Five years later, twenty-five million people were dead, felled by the scourge that would come to be called the Black Death. The Great Mortality is the extraordinary epic account of the worst natural disaster in European history -- a drama of courage, cowardice, misery, madness, and sacrifice that brilliantly illuminates humankind's darkest days when an old world ended and a new world was born.

Editorial Reviews

Michiko Kakutani
“John Kelly gives the reader a ferocious, pictorial account of the horrific ravages of [The Black Death].”
Nelson DeMille
“A fascinating account of the plague. A frightening reminder of what could happen today.”
Richard Rhodes
“Powerful, rich, moving, humane, and full of important lessons for an age when weapons of mass destruction are loose.”
Richard Preston
“Rich and evocative…written in the tradition of Barbara Tuchman, I couldn’t stop reading this work of brilliance and wisdom.”
Jack Weatherford
“Written with a keen eye for the details of the past, it might also be a warning about our future.”
Charleston Post & Courier
“THE GREAT MORTALITY is a chilling account of a global siege, public pits, death-carts, silent villages and empty streets.”
Booklist
"This sweeping, viscerally exciting book contributes to a literature of perpetual fascination."
Houston Chronicle
“Stunning. The Great Mortality [is endowed with] the sheer immediacy ancient history yields to only a few.”
The Guardian
“A compellingly vivid account.”
Tampa Tribune
“A compelling and bone-chilling account.”
Detroit Free Press
"Splendidly written. Kelly has written a popular history based on the best scholarship available, and written it very well indeed."
New York Times Book Review
“THE GREAT MORTALITY skillfully draws on eyewitness accounts to construct a journal of the plague years.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“...splendidly written...”
Booklist (starred review)
“This sweeping, viscerally exciting book contributes to a literature of perpetual fascination.”
Detroit Free Press (**** 4 out of 4 stars)
“Splendidly written. Kelly has written a popular history based on the best scholarship available, and written it very well indeed.”
Jonathan Yardley
The Great Mortality is an admirable work of popular history, a genre too often derided by scholars. Kelly summarizes and interprets previous scholarship in a wholly accessible way, and his research in primary sources gives the book its powerful human element.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The Black Death raced across Europe from the 1340s to the early 1350s, killing a third of the population. Drawing on recent research as well as firsthand accounts, veteran author Kelly (Three on the Edge, etc.) describes how infected rats, brought by Genoese trading ships returning from the East and docked in Sicily, carried fleas that spread the disease when they bit humans. Two types of plague seem to have predominated: bubonic plague, characterized by swollen lymph nodes and the bubo, a type of boil; and pneumonic plague, characterized by lung infection and spitting blood. Those stricken with plague died quickly. Survivors often attempted to flee, but the plague was so widespread that there was virtually no escape from infection. Kelly recounts the varied reactions to the plague. The citizens of Venice, for example, forged a civic response to the crisis, while Avignon fell apart. The author details the emergence of Flagellants, unruly gangs who believed the plague was a punishment from God and roamed the countryside flogging themselves as a penance. Rounding up and burning Jews, whom they blamed for the plague, the Flagellants also sparked widespread anti-Semitism. This is an excellent overview, accessible and engrossing. Agent, Ellen Levine. (Feb. 1) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A ground-level illustration of how the plague ravaged Europe. For his tenth book, science writer Kelly (Three on the Edge, 1999, etc.) delivers a cultural history of the Black Death based on accounts left by those who witnessed the greatest natural disaster in human history. Spawned somewhere on the steppes of Central Asia, the plague arrived in Europe in 1347, when a Genoese ship carried it to Sicily from a trading post on the Black Sea. Over the next four years, at a time when, as the author notes, "nothing moved faster than the fastest horse," the disease spread through the entire continent. Eventually, it claimed 25 million lives, one third of the European population. A thermonuclear war would be an equivalent disaster by today's standards, Kelly avers. Much of the narrative depends on the reminiscences of monks, doctors, and other literate people who buried corpses or cared for the sick. As a result, the author has plenty of anecdotes. Common scenes include dogs and children running naked, dirty, and wild through the streets of an empty village, their masters and parents dead; Jews burnt at the stake, scapegoats in a paranoid Christian world; and physicians at the University of Paris consulting the stars to divine cures. These tales give the author opportunities to show Europeans-filthy, malnourished, living in densely packed cities-as easy targets for rats and their plague-bearing fleas. They also allow him to ramble. Kelly has a tendency to lose the trail of the disease in favor of tangents about this or that king, pope, or battle. He returns to his topic only when he shifts to a different country or city in a new chapter, giving the book a haphazard feel. Remarkably, the storyends on a hopeful note. After so many perished, Europe was forced to develop new forms of technology to make up for the labor shortage, laying the groundwork for the modern era. Occasionally unfocused, but redeems itself by putting a vivid, human face on an unimaginable nightmare. Agent: Ellen Levine/Levine Greenberg Literary Agency

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060006938
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
01/31/2006
Series:
P.S. Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
243,498
Product dimensions:
7.98(w) x 5.30(h) x 0.96(d)

What People are saying about this

Nelson DeMille
“A fascinating account of the plague. A frightening reminder of what could happen today.”
Richard Rhodes
“Powerful, rich, moving, humane, and full of important lessons for an age when weapons of mass destruction are loose.”
Richard Preston
“Rich and evocative…written in the tradition of Barbara Tuchman, I couldn’t stop reading this work of brilliance and wisdom.”
Michiko Kakutani
“John Kelly gives the reader a ferocious, pictorial account of the horrific ravages of [The Black Death].”

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