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In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made

In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made

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by Norman F. Cantor

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A New York Times bestseller, In the Wake of the Plague is a fascinating study of the cultural and religious consequences of one of the deadliest tragedies to befall humanity: the black plague. Though rigorously scientific in his approach, Norman F. Cantor has produced an unforgettable narrative that in many ways employs the novelist’s skill


A New York Times bestseller, In the Wake of the Plague is a fascinating study of the cultural and religious consequences of one of the deadliest tragedies to befall humanity: the black plague. Though rigorously scientific in his approach, Norman F. Cantor has produced an unforgettable narrative that in many ways employs the novelist’s skill for storytelling.

The Black Death was the fourteenth century’s equivalent of a nuclear war. It wiped out one-third of Europe’s population, and irrevocably changed the lives of those who survived. And yet, most of what we know about it is wrong. The details of the Plague etched in the minds of terrified schoolchildren—the hideous black welts, the high fever, and the awful end by respiratory failure—are more or less accurate. But what the Plague really was and how it made history remain shrouded in a haze of myths.

Here, Norman Cantor, the premier historian of the Middle Ages, draws together recent scientific discoveries and groundbreaking historical research to pierce the mist and tell the story of the Black Death as a gripping, intimate narrative. By focusing on twenty pivotal figures from the time, Cantor shows the lasting influence the Plague has had on history, culture, and religion.

“Professor Cantor’s style is easy—no jargon. He is far beyond just knowing his period; he understands it and so he can explain, without oversimplifying, the variety and complexity of this great section of the West’s past” (The New Yorker).

Editorial Reviews

From acclaimed historian of the Middle Ages Norman Cantor comes an absorbing look at the Black Death and the myths and legends that it spawned. Weaving together historical research with scientific findings, Cantor tells the stories of the medieval men and women from all walks of life whose lives were taken or drastically altered by the Plague. But despite these heartbreaking stories of devastation, Cantor also argues that the Plague actually had a cleansing effect on society, leading to an artistic explosion, an economic upswing, and the acceptance of scientific thinking.
Robert Rietz
Norman E. Cantor's book In the Wake of the Plaque: The Black Death and the World It Made is a fascinating reading on the immediate and longer-term social and cultural effects of the Black Death.
Journal of the American Medical Association
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The author, currently an emeritus professor at New York University, has had a distinguished career as a medieval historian, and his textbook The Civilization of the Middle Ages has been popular with many students over many years. Here Cantor produces a popular account of one of the greatest disasters ever to befall the people of Europe. The great plague that struck in the mid-14th century, and returned intermittently for centuries thereafter, had a mortality rate of perhaps 40% and consequently ushered in several profound changes. Beginning with a biomedical survey of the disease, the author points out many problems with current beliefs about its origins, transmission and nature. He suggests that in many instances the likely cause of death was anthrax, which has the same initial symptoms as plague. The plague fell on all classes and regions, and the author uses the stories of several individuals to personalize the devastation and its consequences. He makes a particularly compelling case that the death of Thomas Bradwardine, newly consecrated archbishop of Canterbury, had deep repercussions for the development of both science and religion. In some instances the book raises points that deserve fuller treatment, such as the possible role of serpents in the transmission of plague, but the final chapter neatly summarizes the consequences of this calamity. This book will be welcomed by anyone who wants a good introduction to the topic. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Forbes Magazine
In the late 1340’s Europe suffered a catastrophe the equivalent of a nuclear war. Within months, a third of the population died from the “Black Death.” This wee book examines the impact of the plaque on European civilization, most particularly England, whose population did not reach preplague levels for another 400 years. The pandemic greatly accelerated the already-unraveling system of serfdom; labor became critically short, emboldening peasants to shuck off their manorial servitude and demand a stiff increase in their compensation. England’s dream of forging a major European continental empire was fatally undermined; its military machine depended on infantry, which in the aftermath of the plaque became prohibitively costly. The plaque led to a fatal split in England’s ruling Plantagenet family, resulting in the War of Roses. And Jews, scapegoated for the disaster, were hideously massacred in numerous parts of Europe. (11 Jun 2001)
—Steve Forbes
Library Journal
Cantor (emeritus, New York Univ.; The American Century, LJ 8/99) here looks at the effects of the Black Death on 14th-century Europe. The author believes that our future may be threatened by epidemics as devastating as the Black Death, whether brought on by natural causes or by bio-terrorism. Surveying recent biomedical research on the Black Death, he believes that two diseases were at work in the 14th century the Bubonic Plague, long identified as the major component of the Black Death, and a variety of anti-humanoid Anthrax. The result was devastating, with up to 40 percent of Europe's population dying from the diseases. Among the historical consequences, Cantor believes, was the end of the Plantagenets' Anglo-French Empire, for the Black Death decimated the peasant population that supplied the English kings with the skilled infantry archers that were the backbone of England's military might. This work should appeal to both specialists and general readers and is highly recommended for public and academic libraries. Robert J. Andrews, Duluth P.L., MN Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Chapter One

All Fall Down

In the sixth month of the new millennium and new century, the American Medical Association held a conference on infectious diseases. Pronouncements by scientists and heads of medical organizations at the conference were scary in tone. Infectious disease was the leading cause of death worldwide and the third leading cause in the U.S.A., it was stressed. The situation could soon become much worse.

As the world becomes more of a global village, said one expert, infectious disease could by natural transmission become more threatening in the United States. Here monitoring is lax because of a mistaken belief that the threat of infectious disease has been almost wiped out by antibiotics.

Bioterrorism presented a further and much greater possibility of terrible outbreaks of pandemic in the United States. The New York Times reported: "A speaker at the meeting warned that the healthcare system in the United States was not prepared for a bioterrorist attack, in which hundreds or thousands of people might flood hospitals, needing treatment for diseases: anthrax, plague, or smallpox, which most doctors in this country have never seen.

In the same week as this AMA conference and its Cassandra-like speeches, the NBC Nightly News featured a brief segment showing American biochemists helping their Russian counterparts clean up and close down a large germ warfare factory. The TV correspondent remarked that the Russian plant had been capable of producing far more than the minimum required for effectivebiochemical warfare. He did not pursue the obvious questions of whether the Russians had been exporting the plants' surplus to Iraq, or if this was only one of several Russian germ warfare factories and whether the others may still be operating.

That The New York Times report was tucked away on page fifteen of its National Edition and that NBC News devoted all of four minutes to the Russian disease factory indicate that the problem of infectious disease and its pandemic threat to American wellbeing is still regarded as a marginal matter. By the time the next president of the United States finishes his term, it could be the most visible problem facing American society, similar to the biomedical crisis of late medieval Europe, England in particular.

In the England of 1500 children were singing a rhyme and playing a game called "Ring Around the Rosies." When I grew up in Canada in the 1940s children holding hands in a circle still moved around and sang:

Ring around the rosies
A pocketful of posies
Ashes, ashes
We all fall down

The origin of the rhyme is the flulike symptoms, skin discoloring, and mortality caused by bubonic plague. The children were reflecting society's efforts to repress memory of the Black Death of 1348-49 and its lesser aftershocks. Children's games were — or used to be — a reflection of adult anxieties and efforts to pacify feelings of fright and concern at some devastating event. So say the folklorists and psychiatrists.

The meaning of the rhyme is that life is unimaginably beautiful — and the reality can be unbearably horrible.

In the late fourteenth century a London cleric, who previously served in a rural parish and who is known to us as William Langland, made severe reference to the impact of infectious diseases "pocks" (smallpox) and "pestilence" (plague) in Piers Plowman, a long, disorganized, and occasionally eloquent spiritual epic. As translated by Siegfried Wenzel:

So Nature killed many through corruptions,
Death came driving after her and dashed all to dust,
Kings and knights, emperors and popes;
He left no man standing, whether learned or ignorant;
Whatever he hit stirred never afterwards.
Many a lovely lady and their lover-knights
Swooned and died in sorrow of Death's blows....
For God is deaf nowadays and will not hear us,
And for our guilt he grinds good men to dust.

The playing children, arms joined in a circle and singing "Ring Around," and the gloomy, anguished London priest were each in their distinctive ways trying to come to psychological terms with an incomparable biomedical disaster that had struck England and most of Europe.

The Black Death of 1348-49 was the greatest biomedical disaster in European and possibly in world history. Its significance was immediately perceived by the wise Arab historian Ibn Khaldun, writing a few years later: "Civilization both in East and West was visited by a destructive plague which devastated nations and caused populations to vanish. It swallowed up many of the good things of civilization and wiped them out in the entire inhabited world." A contemporary Florentine writer referred to "the exterminating of humanity."

A third at least of Western Europe's population died in what contemporaries called "the pestilence" (the term the Black Death was not invented until after 1800). This meant that somewhere around twenty million people died of the pestilence from 1347 to 1350. The so-called Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918 killed possibly fifty million people worldwide. But the mortality rate in proportion to total population was obviously relatively small compared to the impact of the Black Death — between 30 percent and 50 percent of Europe's population.

The Black Death affected most parts of the Mediterranean world and Western Europe. Ingmar Bergman's 1957 film The Seventh Seal depicts the impact of the Black Death on Sweden. In Bergman's view the Black Death, which reached Sweden by 1350, caused an era of intense pessimism and widespread feelings of dread and futility.

But the great medical devastation hit no country harder than England in 1348-49 and because of the rich documentation surviving on fourteenth-century England it is in that country that we can best examine its personal and social impact in detail. Furthermore, there were at least three waves of the Black Death falling upon England over the century following 1350, nowhere near as severe as the cataclysm of the late 1340s, whose severity was unique in human history. But the succeeding outbreaks generated a high mortality nonetheless.

The population...

In the Wake of the Plague. Copyright © by Norman Cantor. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Norman F. Cantor (1929–2004) was a professor of history, sociology, and comparative literature at New York University. Among his many academic honors are appointments as a Rhodes Scholar, Porter Ogden Jacobus Fellow at Princeton University, and Fulbright Professor at Tel Aviv University. He was nominated for the NBCC Award for Inventing the Middle Ages.

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In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
thedominsane More than 1 year ago
I am a history buff and I have read many history books in my time, but this one stands out as one of the worst! Cantor presents the Black Death as if he has Attention Deficit Disorder. His thoughts are sporadic and do not flow logically. He is all over the place. He seems to have an interest in creating plot lines from individual stories during the time; but he does not tie them into the book at all. It seems only 50% of the time he was talking about the Black Death and the other 50% of the time he was rambling on about people and events either way before or way after the black death, without any apparent relevance. I love when Historians can relate even the most abstract events back to one cause, or vice versa, but Cantor attempts to do this with poor foresight. His stories lead nowhere, at the very least you may develop a small feeling of empathy, but I imagine any book that mentions the devastating loss of life and socioeconomic factors of the Black Death would have the same effect. I do not recommend to anyone seeking to be informed about the Black Death.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I believe In the Wake of the Plague provided a great insight into how the people lived there lives in the middle ages and was thoroughly detailed and accurately portrayed the medieval times. It gave several different theories that were wildly believed,  including but not limited to, the theory that Jews caused the plague or even that it was god’s wrath. My negative on this is I felt  Norman Cantor was quite opinionated and liked to state his point very bluntly with not much to compromise with. At some points I felt as if I was being talked down too. His style of writing and dash of sarcasm does create a lighter mood to the book  though. In the Wake of the Plague does provide a great general analysis on the time period but seems a little vague at sometimes . Cantor overall provides a lovely introduction to the Black Plague for the general reader. He exhibits a mastered grasp of the era he  has long studied. I would also like to praise Cantor’s organization of sub-topics.  I felt the In the Wake of the Plague is less successful in describing the broader relationship between humans and infectious  disease in the centuries that followed the Black Death. The history of this relationship is marked by many different types of epidemics  as well as changing scientific and medical views of their causes and the best methods of preventing them. I believe the element of bio medical research is the most provocative and controversial portion of this book because it’s such a large topic and can be  interpreted and viewed different ways. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the Wake of the Plague by Norman F. Cantor was thoroughly detailed and accurately portrayed the medieval times, not only including the Black Plague, but also the many events that effected or were effected by the Black Death. The book informed me about the bubonic plague in many ways I never knew even existed. I would have never speculated that the royal personnel of the medieval times died in the same accounts commoners did. I would've thought that the royals had more protection from the plague, but we now know it could've originated and formed into other diseases much more easily carried. When I chose the book I thought I would be reading more about buboes and blisters, but instead I read about the different people affected by the plague and the historical context the changed due to the mass number of deaths. This book left me with a lasting impression and a vast array of knowledge. The author completes his purpose quite well in my opinion. In some places he adds a dash of sarcasm and often includes words not frequently used when talking about a plague. In places, these occasions brighten the mood and keep the reader interested, while in others it truly adds character and depth to the story. The word choice also sets a proper, medieval, English feel to the non-fiction tale. I also think the author, Norman F. Cantor, accomplishes his task to inform the reader, but also while giving a twist on the story. He tells the side of the Black Plague that most don't. Instead of focusing on the painful disease and death, he relates historical events back to the plague itself. It made me think about the whole time period as a whole instead of the Black Death being the only major event happening between 1300 and 1500. He chooses events not necessarily well-known and connects them to the plague. I believe his goal was to think about the plague in a new way, and he achieved it. I recommend this book to anyone wanting learn anything new about the medieval times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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jksahi More than 1 year ago
In the Wake of the Plague was an impressive work of non-fiction by Norman F. Cantor. Cantor appropriately encompasses all sub-catergories of this vast topic, creating an immense insight on the subject of the Black Death. The novel is not simply about what happened, but about how it happened. He conveniently splits his information into three parts: biomedical context, people, and history. Therefore, he is able to illustrate how the disease came about, how people reacted, and how it progressed thorugh European history. It was great learning about how the disease may have not only been a form of the bubonic plague, but also a variation of anthrax that some victims could've caught by eating unhealthy meat. Learning about how different classes of the population reacted was also insightful--all the way from the royalty to the peasants I was informed of how their specific lives were affected. And understanding how the pestilence may have even began as early as the fall of the Roman empire was a great way to realize how diseases can endure through time. Furthermore, Cantor's writing is impressive and actually interesting to to read. His word choice may seem advanced for younger readers, but it's easy to understand the context of his underlying purpose when reading. He also uses irony and sarcasm in his writing of history, which makes things much more colorful. Plus, most importantly, the way he chose to write this non-fiction piece of work was not to simply explain the Black Death and its effects on medieval Europe, but by illustrating medieval Europe through the angle of the pestilence. Simply a great novel written by a great medievalist.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the Wake of the Plague by Norman Cantor, Cantor does a great job getting his points across but gives bad citations of where he got the information from. He continuously stays in England and not in any other place in Europe, but as he states at the beginning that most of the available information comes from England. I thought he could have at least put more about the effects across Europe and not just England. You do on the other hand end up getting a good understanding of changes to the social, cultural, intellectual, political, and economical ideas of mainly England. I did enjoy the book at first, but then Cantor began going off topic. When I say he went off topic, I mean he would say something about an event or person then state a page or two about a description of it. With this happening you could easily lose what he was originally talking about before and be totally lost. Cantor would also make quirky jokes, opinions, and ideas that are debatable about parts of history that I saw as unreasonable to state. I noticed most of the book was revolving around certain people (for example, Princess Joan) and not the plague itself. I wouldn't recommend this even though you will come out with good information, you could easily find most of this information elsewhere.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Norman F. Cantor does a splendid job of informing the reader of all aspects of the Black Plague. He explains where it comes from at first, then moves on to how it affected the people. He gives you lots of facts and no opinions. He explains how the plague affected everyone from the serfs to the royal families. He also shares the affect of the disease on different ethnic groups such as the Jewish people. After giving the reader the full knowledge of the affects, he mentions the aftermath and what it did to the countries. This is a very informational book that clears up any questions or uncertainties about the Black Death. I would recommend this book to anyone who is thirsting for more knowledge about the Black Plague. This is not an opinion-based novel, but rather a factual and story telling book. His index in the back shows how much research he did. This allows the reader to be confident that he has the right information. He researches many people and is able to tell the story of the Black Death by explaining how if affected their lives. He disproves many mislead thoughts that one might have of the Plague. Cantor explains every aspect of the disease and allows the reader to truly understand the affects on the countries it hit. This is an informational novel that is relatively easy to read. If one wants more information about the Black Plague, this is a great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I started reading this book I was intrigued, however, I gradually became less intrested as the author got more and more off topic. He focused on certain events and victims of this disease, (such as Princess Joan) and not as much about the disease itself or the overall outcome of it. He did, however, do a good job about informing the reader about social, cultural, economic, religious, and intellectual portions of this time period. In this book you saw his point of veiw and got many insights to help you better understand what it was like to live during this time in the fourteenth century. The reader could see how this disease affected different people, but got a lack of understanding about the plague itself. Norman F. Cantor also did a great job at stating facts, but they could have been more organized and thought-out. He was very straigtfoward when writing this. For the most part I felt like I was reading a textbook, which has it's beinifits as well as it downfalls. By writing a novel this way, Norman Cartor, could have lost a lot of readers, due to lack of intrest. However, those who did read the whole thing finished with a lot of information and some unknown facts about this horrific disease. Norman Cantor obviously did a lot of research and is definitely qualified to write this, but I didn't feel like the information belonged in a novel. He had few personal insights and the majority of these didn't directly relate to the topic. Overall, my first impression on this book was good, but afterwards I wasn't as happy with it. I would reccomned this to a student wanting to learn about the Bubonic Plague, but a lot of other research is needed to completely understand this outbreak and what happened because of it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very informative about the Black Death and Bubonic Plague and the consequences it brought to Europe, but it might be perhaps a little too informative. Norman F. Cantor does a great job of completely covering all aspects of the Black PLague and all of its effects on Europe. He also traces all of the effects from the midieval era up until the 20th century and even in todays medical world. In the Wake of the Plague will help you better understand what was going on in the time of the plague in Europe and also how the people delt with its harsh consequences.I personally thought this book was excellent for the purpose in which i needed it to serve, which was to educate myself about the Black death and its global impact, because there was alot of information. However, if you are looking for an easy read with simple bits of information about the Plague, you might want to find another book. This novel goes into very deep detail about the impacts of the Plague and it sometimes feels as though it trails off into another topic. There are alot of dates and names of historical people on just about every page and its confusing trying to keep them all straight...and then remember how they tie into the title of the book, In the Wake of the Plague. While it does talk about the Black Death and The BUbonic plague frequently, the passages aren't very long and the information presented is very repetitive. In a nutshell, this book has alot of information, but depending on your purpose in reading, it might not be necessarily useful informtation to you.
Alley-1994 More than 1 year ago
This book, In the Wake of the Plague, by Norman Canton, is a very complex one. If you're interested in reading this book, you might need to reconsider. While trying to focus on the pro's of this publication, it is difficult to ignore the many con's. The structure of Cantor's text is possibly the worst I have ever experienced reading. At times, I have absolutely no clue how it relates to the Black Death. Sometimes, later I understand. But more times than not, I still have no idea why Cantor thought it necessary information to include in a book of this topic. I am not a frequent nonfiction reader, but this seems inadequate to the bar of acceptance. If you are interested in the Black Death, reading this book requires a level of prior knowledge to understand the contents, and if the reader is that knowledgeable, they most likely know most of the information stated. However, one of the few pro's I enjoyed in this book is the unusual facts that Cantor instills in my mind, such as the origin of the extremely-popular children's song, Ring Around the Rosie. The lyrics of this rhyme seem apparent in not just the Black Death, but plagues that have been harassing mankind since the beginning of history. "Ashes, ashes!" could refer to many occurrences during this time period, such as the persecution and burning of many Jews, blamed for poisoning wells all around the Mediterranean (this was one of the times where I did not understand how it connected to the Black Death). "We all fall down!" speaks for itself. The common English in this book is not very well understood if not very intelligent, and Cantor's poor attempts at humor and irony are easily noted. Nonetheless, Cantor is obviously a very well educated scholar on the matter once one has read the book. The book taught me more about the Black Death than I ever knew about it, even if it was not that enjoyable. Cantor is obviously an educated intellectual on the Black Death, but he is mediocre at authoring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hydra More than 1 year ago
I was interested in reading this text as a scientist and was a bit disappointed at the amount of general history. I stopped reading the book at the half-way point and decided it was not really for me.
LMSmith More than 1 year ago
Eminently readable with interesting stories of people and places affected by the Black Death. Cantor shows how the plagues changed life in Europe and how those effects can still be seen in modern times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Overall, I felt that this book completed its purpose of informing the reader about the ¿world of the Black Death¿ and would recommend it to my peers to learn more about the subject. This book seems is aimed at people/students with a higher reading level, because of its use of strange words and lengthy descriptions of each event that takes place. If you do not have the right mindset while reading the book, Cantor¿s writing can become very boring. He seems to have a tendency to go off topic for a couple pages, but then, sometimes in the weirdest ways, ties it all together to the subject he was talking about before.
This book focuses more on the social effects of the bubonic plague than any other book I have read. Most of the books I have read focus on the population loss, rather than the effect on other parts of the societies. Cantor seems to have just the right mix of symptoms and population loss, things most students already know, and the other aspects of European life that affected. He seems to have hit all the main points: social, political, economical, and religious effects. This book is a good read for those interested in the history of the Black Death.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
While his writing style does tend to include jumping to different topics and dates, he wrote In the Wake of the Plague in a manor of truth and informity that makes you feel like you've experienced the troubles of the time and in some ways the disease.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was okay, only Cantor tends to often go on tangents which tie losely 'or not at all' to the topic of the Black Death. It's not terribly long and not excruciatingly boring apart from the winding tangents, which are often tied up very very briefly by a small connection to the Black Death. However, you will probably learn from this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Norman F. Cantor divides the book 'In the Wake of the Plague' into three sections. The first gives a is about the biomedical aspects of the black plague. Throughout this section he tells about the sypmtoms of the plague and the remedies that formed against it. It also goes into detail about what was done with the dead bodies. The eventual decision was to burn them. The second section gives accounts of the people who were affected by the plague. This section also begins to talk about the affects of the plague. The third and final section discusses the plague from a historical standpoint. In this section it is mainly the affects of the plague that are discussed.-----New Paragraph----- Although the information in this book is excellent, it tends to stray from its central topic. The author often finds himself giving random information or going off on tangents. The writing of the book is also informal at times. Fragments and incomplete thoughts can be found. I often times found it hard to concentrate when I was reaeding the book for it often times did not stay one idea too long.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the book In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made created a fun and easy way to learn the background information on Europe and the affects disease has on the human population. This book did an exhalent job on describing a problem the Black Death caused and then giving an example of a specific event which for me made it more interesting and entertaining. I also liked the one metaphor that Cantor used when he was describing how many people they buried in one area looked like lasagna. That not only made me sort of laugh but it gave me a visual on how many people they buried with each other. The reason I recommend this book to students and teachers is because it gives so much information and it is less than 250 pages long. The only reason I didn't give this book a five is because it repeated itself a lot in the ways that the plague affected the population of humans and the civilization. Besides that this was one of the best books I have read in a long time and I would recommend that you should get the book and read it for yourself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World it Made, appears to be a book simply of the Black Death and random facts, but this book reveals a whole new side the Black Death that is not viewed very often. This book should be read by those wishing to get an in-depth discussion of the Black Death, not just an over view of the disease. In Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World it Made was a lengthy book and at times was rather boring, but for the most part it was fairly interesting. The whole point of the book was for people to see the effects the Black Death had on Europe socially, economically, physically, and religiously. Norman Cantor does a good job of addressing all the outcomes with in-depth examples for each. The main point of the book could be gathered by the time the end was read, but during the middle of the book, there was some unnecessary information, which confused me. Norman Cantor felt the need to write examples for each effect the Black Death had on Europe. Examples can be a good thing to glean a better perspective of the time period, but I felt that some of the information about the heritage and blood relations of Europeans were not necessary. At points in the book it is hard to concentrate because it seemed that Cantor went off on tangents and got off topic. But once I got past the boring parts, the overall point and information of the book well put and insightful. This book enabled me to glean a good insight on the effects of the Black Death in Europe.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In my opinion, Norman F. Cantor does a poor job getting many of his points across. He tends to lump important ideas together when they should clearly be separated. This is evident in the one chapter where Cantor discusses medieval and modern superstitions and the attempt to use them as an explanation for the epidemic. He throws together both the mystical causes, such as serpants, and the more serious scientific explanations, such as the dust theory, in the same chapter. These explanations, or theories, are of two different natures and should, therefore, be placed in two different chapters in my opinion. I also think that Mr. Cantor makes the book horribly complicated to read. He goes for pages covering a complicating history filled with names and dates before even telling us his side of the argument. By the time he gets his point across to the reader, he has already lost thier interest. If his supporting details weren't so hurried and run together the book might have been a little easier to read.