What might be called "microbial history"—the study of the impact of disease on human events—is a subject that has received great attention in recent years. Rosen's new book follows John Barry's The Great Influenza and John Kelly's The Great Mortality.An editor and publisher for more than a quarter century, Rosen absorbingly narrates the story of how the Byzantine Empire encountered the dangerous Y. pestis in A.D. 542 and suffered a bubonic plague pandemic foreshadowing its more famous successor eight centuries later. Killing 25 million people and depressing the birth rate and economic growth for many generations, this unfortunate collision of bacterium and man would mark the end of antiquity and help usher in the Dark Ages. Rosen is particularly illuminating and imaginative on the "macro" aftereffects of the plague. Thus, the "shock of the plague" would remake the political map north of the Alps by drawing power away from the Mediterranean and Byzantine worlds toward what would become France, Germany and England. Specialist historians may certainly dislike the inevitable reductionism such a broad-brush approach entails, but readers of Collapse and Guns, Germs, and Steel,Jared Diamond's grand narratives, will find this a welcome addendum. (May 14)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europeby William Rosen
The Emperor Justinian reunified Rome's fractured empire by defeating the Goths and Vandals who had separated Italy, Spain, and North Africa from imperial rule. At his capital in Constantinople, he built the world's most beautiful building, married its most powerful empress, and wrote its most enduring legal code, seemingly restoring Rome's fortunes for the next 500 years. Then, in the summer of 542, he encountered a flea. The ensuing outbreak of bubonic plague killed 5,000 people a day in Constantinople and nearly killed Justinian himself.
Weaving together evolutionary microbiology, economics, military strategy, ecology, and ancient and modern medicine, William Rosen offers a sweeping narrative of one of the great hinge moments in history, one that will appeal to readers of John Kelly's The Great Mortality, John Barry's The Great Influenza, and Jared Diamond's Collapse.
- Penguin Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.38(w) x 9.54(h) x 1.30(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
What People are Saying About This
Meet the Author
William Rosen was an editor and publisher at Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and the Free Press for more than twenty-five years.
Barrett Whitener has won half a dozen coveted AudioFile Earphones Awards for his audiobook narration.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
Amazing detail. I loved it. Looked like you took your time. WAY TOO SHORT THOUGH! Make the story about seven pages and grab the readers attention with every sentence. Otherwise its almost awesome.
The first half of the book is a fascinating tale of how the incalculable facets of life during the late Roman empire all lead to the formation of Europe as we know it today. War, politics, religion -- it¿s all here. I found the sections about how Christianity orthodoxy was created particularly interesting. Unfortunately, for as good as the first half was, I found the second half tedious and in some parts painful. I had to muscle through Rosen¿s excruciatingly detailed description of how the Hagia Sophia was constructed and the evolution of the bacteria that causes the plague. Some will no doubt find these sections remarkable, but they simply held no appeal to me. Still, I¿d say Rosen did a pretty good job of providing a fairly comprehensive history of the time period and can recommend the book.