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1. Plague: What's in a name?
2. Pandemics and epidemics
3. BigiImpacts: The black death
4. Private horrors
5. Public health
6. Enduring images
7. The lessons of histories
Posted June 7, 2012
Plague is the prototypical deadly and devastating infectious disease. Over the period of more than a millennium, plague outbreaks have decimated many parts of the world, but perhaps nowhere more so than in Europe. Almost all of the European medieval life has been lived in the shadow of the possible plague outbreaks, but the majority of the main outbreaks have taken place between the fourteenth and the seventeenth centuries. It is hard to understate the impact that the plague has had on the course of European history, but also culture and arts.
Despite its impact and prominence in the middle ages, there is still a lot that we don’t know about the plague. Ever since scientists had been able to attribute infectious diseases to microbes, there was a question about which particular microbe was responsible for plague. The general consensus has emerged that the bubonic plague had been caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, but the kinds of disease that this bacteria cause have certain important differences with the medieval plague. The most likely reason for this is that bacteria, like other living organisms, and sometimes evolve rather rapidly.
This short introduction is rather comprehensive for its small format. The first two chapters are dedicated to the biological and epidemiological characteristics of the plague. The rest of the book deals with the cultural and social impact of this disease, in all its ramifications. The book is well written, and it aims at the general audience. Some familiarity with the basic biology and European medieval history are recommended, but they are not essential. It is an interesting and intellectually stimulating little book.
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Posted March 6, 2014
This book was written from an historical prospective delving into the personal, architectural, cultural, arts, religious and literary impacts plague had on communities and countries. It was interesting, but not quite what I was expecting. For my taste, too much on the arts and literary aspects. It was rather redundant in the narrative.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.