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Return of the Black Death: The World's Greatest Serial Killer [Paperback]

Susan Scott , Christopher Duncan
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 May 2005
If the twenty–first century seems an unlikely stage for the return of a 14th–century killer, the authors of Return of the Black Death argue that the plague, which vanquished half of Europe, has only lain dormant, waiting to emerge again—perhaps, in another form. At the heart of their chilling scenario is their contention that the plague was spread by direct human contact (not from rat fleas) and was, in fact, a virus perhaps similar to AIDS and Ebola. Noting the periodic occurrence of plagues throughout history, the authors predict its inevitable re–emergence sometime in the future, transformed by mass mobility and bioterrorism into an even more devastating killer.

Product details

  • Paperback: 318 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (20 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470090014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470090015
  • Product Dimensions: 1.7 x 12.9 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 577,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"...fascinating book...a gripping read..." (Perioperative Nursing, September 04) "...combines historical and biological research to undermine what we have long believed..." (Ancestors, Dec 05)

From the Inside Flap

The Black Death appeared out of the blue in Sicily in 1347 and moved swiftly on to kill half of Europe in three years. Once the plague had established a stronghold in France it continued to terrorize the continent for another three centuries. London′s Great Plague of 1665–66, which claimed 6000 lives a week at its height, was its last great strike. A few years later it disappeared as suddenly and mysteriously as it had appeared. Susan Scott and Christopher Duncan uncover the tragic and moving human stories behind the records: unsung heroes, bereaved parents, parted lovers and those who exploited the suffering of others for their own greed. They also trace the origins of this lethal disease, through possible earlier outbreaks in classical times back to its animal hosts in Africa. Here it remains but there is no reason to believe it has gone for good. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Then a boil developed on their thighs, or on their upper arms a boil... This infected the whole body, so that the patient violently vomited blood. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great detective work 28 Sep 2006
The return of the Black Death tries to give an overview of the spread of the the Plague during the middle ages and renaissance and tries to bedunk history with regards to the prevalent theories on the cause of this epidemic. And I must say it does it very well. It's a good history read with a healthy dose of science and rationality sprinkled on top. The writing style is engaging and understandable, even for a layman.

What most struck me is the amount of panic a small epidemic, like SARS, can generate in our modern world and how a major epidemic like HIV/AIDS, which kills millions per year, gets, relatively speaking, so little attention.

A recommended read and a real eye-opener.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Gripping - a real eyeopener too! 18 Oct 2005
By A Customer
This book is completely un-putdownable. A fantastic piece of detective work, tracing the origins, progress and final extinction of the Black Death that swept through Europe in waves throughout the centuries, interlaced with human stories and real sympathy with the immense suffering endured by many thousands of its victims. It was not bubonic plague at all, but haemorrhagic plague that decimated whole countries - a truly horrifying and thankfully extinct virus that was uncontrollable and invincible. It's infectious incubation period of about 30 days ensured it spread far and wide before sufferers were even aware they had it.Forget about all you heard about fleas and rats. Had it been bubonic plague, there would have been much less to worry about! The authors finally speculate on what comes next, and how would we deal with it (bird flu???)and what is the most gruesome disease we can die of today (has to be ebola!). A truly great book, and one to make us think.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking 8 July 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A real eye opener. To find out the the black plague was not bubonic as commongly thought, but a haemorrhagic plague that killed not only thousands in the Uk, but millions world-wide. This plague returned to decimate entire cities time and time again over a period of 400 years or more, finally seeming to disappear around the early 18th century. Or is it just in hiding?

The book is well written and interesting and does not baffle you too much with science.

Haemorrhagic plague (I am reliably informed by the book!) is a very nasty little disease to catch. Like Ebola, the sufferer literally bleeds to death and his/her insides rot away, turning to liquid. The symptons of haemorrahgic plague are very similar to that of bubonic plague with the black `spots' or bubis being the blood showing under the skin. The final horrible, visible stages of the disease through to death are very painful and the sufferer experiences flu like symptons, vomiting blood, and diarrhea and finally falls into a coma. According to the book some sufferers were in so much pain that it drove them mad and they would throw themselves into the street screaming or even out of windows in a bid to escape the pain. These final symptons take place over a few days (from 5 to 12) and at present there is no known cure.

The authors set out to prove that the black death was caused by hemorrhagic plague, by showing the following differences: that the incubation and infectious period was a lot longer in heamorrhagic plague (approx 32 days) whereas the incubation period was a lot shorter in bubonic plague only 2 to 6 days.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Shake-Up 14 Dec 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Government's own Health advice web site states that Plague is caused by Yersinia pestis, the bacterium transmitted along the infamous rat-flea-human route.

This book proves that, whilst bubonic plague is caused this way, bubonic plague could not have been the agent responsible for the Black Death and many subsequent outbreaks of severe mortality, as it does not follow the correct epidemiology expected for such a vector. Bubonic plague expands at a few miles a year, whereas the Black Death covered an entire continent in two years.

A good book, possibly a bit lacking in scientific detail at times, and certainly plays too much on the modern need to feel that 'it might all happen again tomorrow'. It might, but that shouldn't really take up so much space here.

Certainly worth buying; it inspired me to look into it deeper.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extremely interesting and viable theory 8 Mar 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Think you 'know' about the fourteenth century plague ? It was ALL caused by the bubonic plague from rats - wasn't it ? In this book they lay out an alternative theory and back it up with epidemiological studies that use the historical accounts to support their theory about the main death toll being due to an alternative problem. It appears to be appropriately referenced and well researched and will be of interest to anyone with a lively interest in this great mortality within Europe (from 30-50% of the entire population living at the time).
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book! 24 Jun 2004
By A Customer
I bought this book to while away the hours of a long train journey subject to endless delays. Little did I know that it would turn out to be one of the most stimulating, exciting and, yes, frightening books I have ever read. I couldn't put it down.
Like most people, I had thought that there was no mystery about the Black Death: it was the result of bubonic plague spread by rats and fleas. How wrong I was. Return of the Black Death very effectively explodes this myth and reveals the truth of the most appalling killer disease known to mankind. Not only was it an entirely different disease but, worryingly, it might still be around somewhere, waiting for the right time to strike again. The part of the book where the authors postulate how the Black Death might spread through the world today had my hair standing on end.
In summary, this is a gripping read which turns history on its head and suggests major thought-provoking consequences for us today.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Highlights pandemic diseases.
This book is a chronicle of Black Death and similar outbreaks throughout history. Very sobering to read, especially during an outbreak of birdflu.. Full of historical statistics.
Published 1 month ago by Berkshire Scribe
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Death
This is an outstanding book which proposes a new theory of the cause of the black death. There are aspects which need discussing with the authors, but I belive that one has died. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Michael Hitchin
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable and Scholarly
A well written, accessable and brilliantly researched new exposition of the true cause of the Black Death. Fascinating. Well woryh a read and good value for money. Read more
Published 19 months ago by David
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Death
Officially the Black Death appeared quite suddenly in Sicily in Italy in 1347, and went to kill almost 1/3 of Europe in about 3 years (in London it killed about 6000 people per... Read more
Published on 25 May 2012 by Koriel Tannhauser
1.0 out of 5 stars A complete rip-off -- RETRACTION
I down-loaded this Kindle edition today and during the next five minutes or so, read what I thought was the introduction. Suddenly, I found that I had reached the end of the book. Read more
Published on 1 July 2011 by Beric
2.0 out of 5 stars Flawed conclusions based on recent evidence
This is quite a biased examination of the causes of the Black Death. It raises some interesting points, however it is at odds with more recent scientific results (Haensch et al. Read more
Published on 21 Jan 2011 by Just the Facts
3.0 out of 5 stars Repeats itself a bit
I found this a wee bit disappointing.
Some great accounts of the plague from public records, yes. Read more
Published on 26 Jun 2009 by David L
3.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointing
The black death usually came to a town via a stranger, incubation was 37 days whereby half the population died and many more fled in panic to neighbouring towns. Read more
Published on 10 Mar 2009 by Mel from Herts
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read, someone needs to re-write the history books!
This is compelling reading and undeniably a better explanation for 'the plague'. However if it is true, history should be re-written and the world health organisation needs to sit... Read more
Published on 30 Jan 2009 by Jane Eyre
4.0 out of 5 stars Important and interesting but flawed
This is in historical point of huge interest and potential importance. The idea that bubonic plague caused the Black Death is one that refuses to die, despite the clear and... Read more
Published on 22 Oct 2008 by C. Lee
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