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Black Death


A fascinating work of detective history, The Black Death traces the causes and far-reaching consequences of this infamous outbreak of plague that spread across the continent of Europe from 1347 to 1351. Drawing on sources as diverse as monastic manuscripts and dendrochronological studies (which measure growth rings in trees), historian Robert S. Gottfried demonstrates how a bacillus transmitted by rat fleas brought on an ecological reign of terror -- killing one European in three, wiping out entire villages and towns, and rocking the foundation of medieval society and civilization.

  • Publisher: Free Press (May 11, 2010)
  • Length: 203 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781439118467

New York Times Book Review An engrossing study...Gottfried leaves us with a better understanding of how humans turned out to be at the mercy of changes in insect and rodent ecology.

The Atlantic Monthly Intriguing [description of] the social and economic effects of the plague, particularly its impact on the medical profession...Professor Gottfried describes the process in brisk and stimulating style.

William H. McNeill New York Review of Books Marks a distinct intellectual advance...a powerful reminder of how drastically ecological balances can be upset...

New England Journal of Medicine The epidemiology of plague and its introduction into Europe, the details of its devastation of various regions, and the economic consequences of the pandemic...represents the scholarly consensus and is well told.

The Boston Globe Book Review Gottfried's own historical expertise serves him well in describing the broad tears, temporary patches, and eventual retailoring of the fabric of medieval life...Gottfried's examination of the Black Death can help us to understand ourselves as well as our darkest past.