In an experimental narrative for an academic historianblending some fiction with solid factsHatcher, of Cambridge University, offers a "literary docudrama" that looks at the lives off ordinary people during the Black Death that devastated Europe in the 1340s. Focusing on the English town of Walsham de Willows, Hatcher helps readers understand the deep terror that prevailed, including rumors of "awful omens, including rains of frogs, serpents, lizards, scorpions, and venomous beasts." He describes the plague itself, which caused coughing up of blood, carbuncles and boils on the neck, underarm and groin, and death in a few days. Especially affecting are accounts of the psychological agonies of those who, in a deeply religious age, saw their often delirious relatives die without proper confession. Finally, Hatcher notes the socioeconomic upheaval wrought by the plague, including poor people unexpectedly inheriting land from relatives killed by the plague, and a severe labor shortage as a third of Europe's population was wiped out.. While a glossary would have been helpful (will readers know what a "rood" of land or a "heriot" is?), this is a fine work that gives an intimate sense of the Black Death's horrors. Maps. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Black Death: A Personal Historyby John Hatcher
In this fresh approach to the history of the Black Death, John Hatcher, a world-renowned scholar of the Middle Ages, recreates everyday life in a mid-fourteenth century rural English village. By focusing on the experiences of ordinary villagers as they livedand diedduring the Black Death (134550 AD), Hatcher vividly places the reader directly into those tumultuous years and describes in fascinating detail the day-to-day existence of people struggling with the tragic effects of the plague. Dramatic scenes portray how contemporaries must have experienced and thought about the momentous eventsand how they tried to make sense of it all.
“This book uses a bit of fiction, mixing it with [Hatcher’s] vast knowledge to illuminate that catastrophe.”
Curled Up with a Good Book
“This book screams ‘docudrama.’ One wonders if it will be made into a TV mini-series, so vivid is its novelistic story line yet accurate its information…What Hatcher has done, and done well, is to tell the tale of the Black Plague that swept through Europe in the 14th century from the viewpoint of a single English village.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/7/09
“The core of the story the plague’s effect on the lives of everyday people is as true as can be surmised, nearly 700 years later.”
- Da Capo Press
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Meet the Author
John Hatcher, a leading expert in medieval and early modern social and economic history, is Professor of Economic and Social History and Chairman of the History Faculty at the University of Cambridge.
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