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The Black Death Unknown Binding – 1991


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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: alan Sutton; 1st thus edition. edition (1991)
  • ASIN: B003VZTT3U
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

For a deep look into the social aspects of the bubonic plague of the 14th century, this book is it.
Thomas D. Gulch
The chapter on the fictitious villages I also found to be very well-done and a nice change of pace from the somewhat statistically-driven prose.
mwreview
Philip Ziegler has written a seminal, thought provoking work and at the same time treated his fellow historians equitably and courteously.
"dionemco"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Tess on August 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Ziegler's "The Black Death" is obviously intended to be a popularized account of the infamous bubonic plague that swept Europe in the late 1300s. Unfortunately, the book suffers from the worst of both worlds. It is too full of statistics and academic arguments to be an easily readable book, and yet has nothing new to offer that would make it interesting to the academic. There is nothing wrong with writing a book based only on previously published sources, but Ziegler does not do a good job of integrating these sources together. He discusses the relative merits of this method of computing the number of dead and that method of computing the number of dead; this discussion takes pages. One gets the feeling that a good editor was needed, to go through the book with a red pen and make Ziegler cut these pages of boring exposition down to mere paragraphs. Unfortunately, one also gets the feeling that these pages were left in because without them, the book would be exceedingly slender.
A few other complaints: an entire chapter was devoted to a fictional village. Why? Ziegler writes that it is to provide a look at what an average village would suffer, but surely some village, somewhere in England, was thoroughly enough documented that Ziegler did not have to resort to fiction. (I would be much less disapproving if the writing in this chapter had been better.)
The book is also overly concerned with documenting the progress of the plague: first it went here, where it killed X number of people, then it went here, where it killed Y number of people. As with the pages of tedious discussion about academic theories, this leaves one with the overall feeling that this book was written, not out of any abiding interest in the subject, but because he thought it would sell.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By mwreview on December 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Ziegler's The Black Death was the only book I could find after a television documentary piqued my interest in the subject. I was worried the book would be too scholarly but, to my surprise, I found the writing style very pleasant and engaging. It is one of the best books I have read all year.
Originally published in 1969, Ziegler gathered sources on the plague from the period to more recent examinations to try to create the most accurate picture possible of what it was like in Medieval Europe during 1348-1350 and the effects the Black Death had on Europe. Ziegler admits in his preface that he did not conduct any original research but he does critique the works of others, especially Thorold Rogers' theory that the Black Plague caused the Peasant's Revolt of 1381 (p. 188). He includes a chapter each on Italy, France, and Germany; the latter of which saw the emergence of the Flagellant movement and persecution of the Jews based on suspicions similar to those used in Nazi Germany. England is covered the most with 5 chapters and a 6th on Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. Ziegler demonstrates the fear of the people right from the beginning when the plague entered Europe through Sicily. The patriarch of Catania wished to bring relics to nearby, plague-ridden Messina only to have the Catanians protest against the idea. In compromise, the patriarch dipped the relics in water and brought the water to the suffering neighbors (p. 28).
Ziegler describes what Medieval life was like in sometimes witty style: "The medieval house might have been built to specifications approved by a rodent council" (p. 199).
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Loveitt on November 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
This was an interesting excursion by Mr. Ziegler into the Medieval Era, not usually thought of as his milieu. He acknowledges right up front that he has not done any original research, but has merely brought the material of others together and drawn some conclusions. But, in such a controversial field as this, drawing intelligent conclusions is no mean feat.
Mr. Ziegler starts off the book giving the big picture, showing the Tartars attacking a Genoese trading post in Asia. The Tartar forces are stricken down by the plague and, using some creative tactics, start catapulting some diseased corpses into the Genoese compound. The Genoese quickly get the message and escape by sea back to Europe. The rest, as they say, is history.....
The author has a few chapters where he gives an overview of what happened in Italy, Germany and France. In Germany, in an eerie precursor of things to come centuries later, the Jews are blamed for the calamity and are accused of spreading the plague by poisoning wells. Attacks on Jews, along with the epidemic, spread from town to town.
The great majority of the book deals with what happened in England. I don't know if this was Mr. Ziegler's preference or if he felt that the best documentation pertained mostly to the British Isles. He discusses how many people died in various areas of the country; what happened to wage levels and to prices; how the established Church and the various mendicant orders were affected; etc. The author presents all sides of the issues and draws, at least to me, reasonable conclusions.
With the exception of a couple of chapters midway through the book, where the repetitive statistics put me into a stupor, the book is lively and well-written.
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