Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Great Mortality

I purchased a book from eBay, entitled The Great Mortality, An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time, by John Kelly. My cousin who attends Emory University and is writing her disortation at this time, recommended this book to me.

Some weeks ago I was watching a program on The Black Death, and some interesting points were brought out concerning the ramifications of the plague. One of them being it was a valued, albeit devastating, precursor to the Renaissance. The theory was after so many people were victims of the disease, it forced societies all over western Europe to find new means and methods of doing things, from the menial tasks to scholarly ventures. No longer could a single man rely on another individual to assist him in his work, for the majority of the population had been disseminated, and thus the birth of new and reliable inventions.

Here is some basic information concerning the book:
"John Kelly's history of the Black Death is a colorful, compulsively readable, and very complete look at the subject, including his theory of what caused it (the rapid growth of trade, i.e. ships spreading disease from port to port) and also of what sprang from it: the middle class, property law, and the persecution of the Jews (who, of course, were blamed for it).

Length: 364 pages
Height: 9.5 in.
Width: 6.5 in.
Thickness: 0.8 in.
Weight: 22.4 oz.

Publisher's Note
A compelling and harrowing history of the Black Death epidemic that swept through Europe in the mid-14th century killing 25 million people. It was one of the most devastating human disasters in history.

"The bodies were sparsely covered that the dogs dragged them forth and devoured them . And believing it to be the end of the world, no one wept for the dead, for all expected to die." Agnolo di Turo, Siena, 1348

In just over 1000 days from 1347 to 1351 the 'Black Death' swept across medieval Europe killing 30% of it's population. It was a catastrophe that touched the lives of every individual on the continent. The deadly Y. Pestis virus entered Europe by Genoese galley at Messina, Sicily in October 1347. By the spring of 1348 it was devastating the cities of central Italy, by June 1348 it had swept in to France and Spain, and by August it had reached England. One graphic testimony can be found at St. Mary's, Ashwell, Hertfordshire, where an anonymous hand carved a harrowing inscription for 1349: 'Wretched, terrible, destructive year, the remnants of the people alone remain.'
According to the Foster scale, a kind of Richter scale of human disaster, the plague of 1347-51 is the second worst catastrophe in recorded history. Only World War II produced more death, physical damage, and emotional suffering. It is also the closest thing that Defence Analysts compare a thermonuclear war to - in geographical extent, abruptness and casualties.
In The Great Mortality John Kelly retraces the journey of the Black Death using original source material - diary fragments, letters, manuscripts - as it swept across Europe. It is harrowing portrait of a continent gripped by an epidemic, but also a very personal story narrated by the individuals whose lives were touched by it.

I just received the book and once I have read it, I will naturally give you my thoughts. But, in the meantime, I thought I would share it with you.

Historically yours,

1 comment:

  1. What a tragedy. It always astounds me how tiny little creatures can cause populations so much damage. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the book.