THE BLACK DEATH by Philip Ziegler


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The story of the Black Death--the great plague that swept over, and decimated, Europe in the fourteenth century--is one that, to a large extent, eludes the reader of English. The works of Mr. Coulton and of Cardinal Gasquet are outdated, and the sole authoritative general work has been G. Sticker's teutonically thorough and multivoluminar Die Pest--an opus which can be approached only when armed with adequate patience and more than adequate German. It is Mr. Ziegler's intention to provide a popular account. That he does not succeed is not due to any defect in scholarship or to any opacity of style, but rather to an inadequate perspective. Like most English writers on the Middle Ages, he tends to view England as the focal point of the medieval period; a view which, however satisfying to the British ego, is quite without foundation in fact. In this particular case, it has resulted in a predictable, though curious, imbalance of treatment. The course of the Black Death in France, Italy and Germany--the centers of medieval civilization, and therefore the countries in which the horrible plague most affected the direction of Western civilization--is dismissed almost summarily, while chapter after chapter is devoted to a detailed description of its progress through England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. The book therefore presents a distorted picture of the plague as a whole, and, while it may be useful to the British reader, it is only of peripheral interest to the American.

Pub Date: May 27th, 1969
Publisher: John Day