- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Tempus; 1 edition (October 1, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0752435981
- ISBN-13: 978-0752435985
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.6 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,028,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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New Light on the Black Death 1st Edition
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About the Author
Professor of Dendrochonology at Queen's University, Belfast, Mike Baillie is the author (with Patrick McCafferty) of an equally original study The Celtic Gods: Comets in Irish Mythology.
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Along the way he also opines on the modern misreading of 14th century and earlier writers, and how this misreading affected the interpretation of data. In short, pre-scientific writers/historians used kennings as metaphors, just as the Viking Bard's did. A Viking Bard would of said, "The sword sweat flowed......," Modern's, being blinded by materialsm, would just say, "..blood flowed; the poetic is noticeably absent. Author argues persuasively that description of dragons fighting in the sky, and rivers, the fall of worms and toads, are all metaphors for comets, fireballs, and electrical discharges; this make so much sense you wonder why you didn't think of this. Since, modern cosmology did not exist in the 7th century how would the ancients describe observed cosmological phenomena? Well, they would use Biblical
imagery/kennings as this would resonate with everyone in their culture. Author compares the Biblical imagery of Sodom and Gomorrah with an ancient European text and hits it out of the ballpark, amazing!
Not only did I learn a lot about the ways in which historical data is gathered from tree rings and ice core samples, Baillie relates all of that to world wide mythology in a way that, by the end of the book, starts making complete sense in a way it never did before. Suddenly, weird stories about heroes morphing into bizarre creatures in Ireland and dragons fighting battles in the air in China not only made sense but were pretty clearly different culture's ways of describing the same events.
In terms of historical studies, that is already interesting enough. The core of the book, however, is almost mind blowing. The point of it is this: not only was the Black Death likely due to the explosion of a comet or cometary fragment in Earth's atmosphere, but that these things likely happen far more frequently than anyone has imagined and on a fairly regular basis.
To prove to yourself that his hypothesis is at least feasible, do a search on the word "fireball" and see just how many are reported. You might notice something interesting in what you find. Not only are there far more sightings of these things that you'd think, they are on the increase! In other words, it looks as if we are heading into a danger zone in space much like during the time of the Black Death and several other times in history that have been probably incorrectly seen as pandemics.
One other point that is not explicitly made in the book but that bears thinking about is the effect on our weather of all of the dust that is brought in by these fireballs. How much of global warming is due to this rather than alleged greenhouse gases? Baillie's research clearly shows global climate change during these danger times in the past. Tree growth slowed across the globe just prior to the Black Death and many other such events.
An must read for both its historical significance and for bringing new data to present debates. I loved this book!
Now, Baillie has shown with tree ring and ice core samples just how wrong the historians got it. And this is not a dry read. It is put in fairly plain language for all to understand.
One might ask just why the historians would not even look at the fact that comets may have been to blame for the plague, when everyone who wrote about it mentioned the fire from the skies, rain of fire, fiery snow, bad air.....the list is endless.
These are things that we should learn about so that in the event that it should happen again, we won't be unprepared and will know what is actually happening.
It is a very interesting read.