In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World it Made Hardcover – 4 Jun 2001
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About the Author
Norman Cantor is Professor of History, Sociology and Comparative Literature at New York University and is America's leading historian of the Middle Ages.
Top customer reviews
Never before have I stopped reading a book because it was bad, but I would sincerely recommend the reader stear clear of this title. There are many other fine titles out presently such as Ziegler's 'The Black Death' and Cohen's new book 'The Black Death Transformed' which will more than adequately satiate any intellectual interest you have in the subject.
A couple of examples: Thomas Hardy's works are transposed from Dorset to Devon (why even mention them as they come 500 years later?) and there is a horribly cocked-up timescale in the story of the downfall of a noble English family. The author similarly messes up the timescale of the events surrounding the collapse of Bordeaux, serving up a series of internal contradictions that can be identified without reference to source materials.
He also views the motivation of people at different levels of society through a somewhat opaque glass of late 20th century complacency. My readings of history from those times - the story of the Cathars, the works of Chaucer, suggest that human nature and motivations have changed less than we might imagine, with the differences being the opposite of those he suggests.
For instance, he accuses his characters of living solely for the present by contrast with today's mature and thoughtful readers, even though there was a universal belief in judgment and the after-life, and in many ways our own society can be characterised as shallow and materialistic. He also suggests that the English love for Edward III in spite of his allegedly unpleasant personality showed a cultural immaturity that would not happen today - Bill Clinton? Evita Peron? Charles de Gaulle? Mussolini? The examples are too numerous even to think about.
A good editor might have made something of this book, although someone with such an exalted position in the academic world might not have taken kindly to some basic lessons in logic and research.
Don't waste your money buying this book, or your time reading it. Buy chocolate instead - the wrapper is more accurate.
The second problem is that it really isn't that interesting. The text is largely dry, and will probably provide no new information to anyone with a general grasp of the workings and significance of the Bubonic Plague and Yersina Pestis (although the anthrax information is slightly more interesting - what there is of it).
A quick, easy read, but insubstantial. I was hoping for significantly more.
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