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Return of the Black Death: The World's Greatest Serial Killer Paperback – July 18, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0470090015 ISBN-10: 0470090014 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (July 18, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470090014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470090015
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #752,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"...fascinating book...a gripping read..." (Perioperative Nursing, September 04)

"...combines historical and biological research to undermine what we have long believed..." (Ancestors, Dec 05)

From the Inside Flap

The Black Death appeared out of the blue in Sicily in 1347 and moved swiftly on to kill half of Europe in three years. Once the plague had established a stronghold in France it continued to terrorize the continent for another three centuries. London's Great Plague of 1665-66, which claimed 6000 lives a week at its height, was its last great strike. A few years later it disappeared as suddenly and mysteriously as it had appeared. Susan Scott and Christopher Duncan uncover the tragic and moving human stories behind the records: unsung heroes, bereaved parents, parted lovers and those who exploited the suffering of others for their own greed. They also trace the origins of this lethal disease, through possible earlier outbreaks in classical times back to its animal hosts in Africa. Here it remains but there is no reason to believe it has gone for good. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

There are too many examples to cite them all .
Amazon Customer
The way they present their information makes it seem as though it were staring us in the face all along.
C. LaBerteaux
If you are interested in history, I highly recommend this book.
speakfriend

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Robert Adler on August 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The core of this book is the authors' convincing demonstration that the Black Death, which killed perhaps half the population of Europe during the Middle Ages, was not bubonic plaque, as has long been thought and taught, but a different, unknown, and far more dangerous virus. This is a difference that makes a difference. Modern medicine understands, can quickly detect, and can effectively treat outbreaks of bubonic plaque, making a major re-emergence very unlikely. But if the mysterious virus behind the Black Death, or a close cousin, were to re-emerge, the results could be catastrophic, as the authors clearly show.

The authors reached this conclusion through patient sleuthing through ancient death records in towns and villages devastated by the Black Death. By tracing the exact lines of transmission, they were able to show that the virus had a long incubation period, during most of which people acted as unknowing carriers of the disease. By the time they developed its horrifying symptoms, it was too late for them and for those people they had crossed paths with.

Perhaps because the authors' historical research was so important in guiding them to their radical new conclusion, they devote the first half of the book to it. Readers who make it through this sometimes repetitious recitation will find the second half of the book much more rewarding and thought-provoking

Robert Adler, author of Medical Firsts: From Hippocrates to the Human Genome; and Science Firsts: From the Creation of Science to the Science of Creation
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Laura on October 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had high expectations for this book. I am interested in the "black Death" mystery, and thought this book would be just the thing. However, I was disappointed by contradictory examples, seemingly mixed up chapter order and no references what so ever.

First, most of the book is basically a recital of cities and dates and deaths, though in many examples the authors say the numbers were "probably" exaggerated. The authors use phrases like that a lot - "probably" and "almost certainly" and "presumably" and "must have" in place of real evidence or references. As in the ship "most certainly" landed in such-a-such harbor, and it "probably" brought the infection . . . Well, did it or didn't it? What documentation or historical accounts give evidence of this? Or even hint at it? When I see phrases like that and no evidence or reference sited it makes me skeptical of the validity of the claim. I don't know whether or not that is the case with this book, but without references, I can't really say.

As for the seemingly mixed up chapters, I honestly wondered if my Kindle version had gotten mixed up somehow. One chapter will end with the question "what have we learned about this disease?" and so I'd think the next chapter (finally) would be getting into the real meat of the matter, only to find in the next chapter yet more references of cities and dates and death rates. Then, I read a question something like (remembering from memory) "Did England escaped the plague on its stronghold island", but in previous chapters there had been many examples already given of the plague and deaths in England . . .

Another thing I always find rather distasteful is when authors try to discredit other authors' works, saying, I'm right and you are SOOOO wrong!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By speakfriend on July 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I discovered this book by accident in a bookstore in a German airport. Once I started reading, I could not put it down. As a former history major, I found it informative and fascinating. I thought the authors meticulously and carefully proved their thesis, and kept me interested and reading the whole way. I find it intriguing that the scientific and medical communities have not embraced the idea that the devastating and world-altering event that we think of as the Black Death was actually NOT caused by the Bubonic Plague, but by something much worse, not identified in our modern times. If you are interested in history, I highly recommend this book. I have lost my copy, and plan on buying another.

Similar books that I also loved are two by Richard Preston: The Hot Zone (about the ebola virus), and Demon in the Freezer (about the eradication of smallpox).
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Blueman on September 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent example of a book that would have made a very good magazine or journal article. The authors are convincing in their case that haemmoragic plague, rather than bubonic plague, constituted the Black Death. And, it is possible that scientists could engineer a superbug that could kill millions of billions of people. But all of this could have been said much more efficiently in 30 pages. Especially in the first half of the book, the authors put in huge block quotations from primary sources, in explaining the effects of the plague. In the whole book there are countless examples and long explanations. The pages themselves are fairly small. But there isn't that much to say and, again, it could have been said with much more brevity. The substance of what they say and the bottom-line conclusions are solid and interesting, but blown up with lots of filler, the book does not quite succeed as such.
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