The Black Death

Author: Rosemary Horrox

From 1348 to 1350 Europe was devastated by an epidemic that left between a third and one half of the population dead. This book traces, through contemporary writings, the calamitous impact of the Black Death in Europe, with a particular emphasis on its spread across England from 1348 to 1349. It charts the social and psychological impact of the plague, and its effect on the late-medieval economy. Focusing on England, an exceptionally well documented region, the book then offers a wide range of evidence for the plague's variegated repercussions on the economy and, no less complex, on social and religious conduct. It is concerned with the British experience of plague in the fourteenth century. Students of intellectual history will find a wealth of pseudo-scientific explanations of the plague ranging from astrological conjunctions, through earthquakes releasing toxic vapours, to well poisoning by Jews. From narrative accounts, often of heartrending immediacy, the book further proceeds to a variety of contemporary responses, drawn from many parts of Christian Europe. It then explains contemporary claims that the plague had been caused by human agency. The book attempts to explain the plague, which was universally regarded as an expression of divine vengeance for the sins of humankind.

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‘This is an outstanding collection of documents written by those who lived and died in the mid-fourteenth century: chosen with great skill, translated felicitously and accompanied by commentaries which contain a wealth of informed judgements. It provides an abundance of intimate insights into a society experiencing the most lethal epidemic in recorded history, and is essential as well as fascinating reading for anyone with a serious interest in the middle ages.'
John Hatcher, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

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