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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)
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Surveying the reign of Emperor Justinian of the Byzantine Empire during the years 527-65, Rosen enlists a range of topics from architecture to conquest to bubonic plague. The latter looms largest in his account, for it wreaked havoc in 542. Justinian's ambition to restore the Roman Empire, going great guns at the time under General Belisarius, came to a halt. The calamity's demographic consequences must have been substantial, too, if uncertain, and Rosen salts his text with speculations about the Byzantine seedlings of Europe's future nations. With more surety, Rosen relays eyewitness descriptions of the Justinian plague, with which he integrates the modern scientific understanding of Yersinia pestis and its carrier, the rat. Before the plague arrived in Constantinople, luckily for Justinian's historical reputation, he had already finished building the Hagia Sophia and codifying Roman law. Deeply steeped in the literature of late antiquity, Rosen wears his erudition lightly as he weaves interpretations into a fluid narrative of the era's geostrategic possibilities before the final onset of the Dark Ages. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I enjoyed the detail and telling of the history in a non-pedantic way. I encourage all to read this book.Published 1 day ago by jack stone
Too much biological info for the ordinary reader I would imagine which makes for boring reading thru those particular parts.Published 2 months ago by gail arseneau
NB: This review relates to the book as experienced on CD, which in this reader's case at last, has certain impact on the experience as a whole. Read morePublished 2 months ago by P. T. McConnell
Complete and total waste of time and money if you to read about the plague. I quit at page 232, at which time the author had 10-12 pages on the plague. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Susan Elizabeth
The price to buy this book was very good but the additional costs including freight and processing make this type of purchase somewhat prohibitive. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Colin Moffat
I've always been interested in Late Antiquity and Byzantium. This is a first rate overview of it combined with another one of my long time interests, bubonic plague and its' impact... Read morePublished 8 months ago by James Brandt