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The Black Death by Philip Ziegler
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The Black Death (original 1969; edition 1982)

by Philip Ziegler

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1,0551112,157 (3.69)38
Member:konallis
Title:The Black Death
Authors:Philip Ziegler
Info:London : Penguin, 1982.
Collections:Your library
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Tags:history, social history, medieval history, medicine, plague, 14th century

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The Black Death by Philip Ziegler (1969)

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
A scholarly volume based on empirical evidence gathered through historical writings. Engaging, and descriptive, it is a compelling read, a litany of the disastrous effects of the black death in 1348-49 in Europe but primarily in England, following upon the heels of a critical mass of devastating famines from 1272 to 1332. It is futile to apply any generalization if it professed to apply to the whole of England however, it is safe to say the towns managed to survive while the countryside was devastated, and at least 33% of the population of England, Ireland, and Scotland died. Only through the innate ability of the English nation to survive any calamity thrown at it was England able to survive these multiple disasters. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Aug 15, 2019 |
It is a grievous ornament that breaks out in a rash. - Jeuan Gethin

Philip Ziegler penned a spectacular survey of the 14th century disaster which could've flipped the human lights off permanently. Okay, maybe not extinguish, but certainly a long-lasting dimming was a possibility. This is a splendid book, one which steadily recognizes the limitations of history. Ziegler also prodded me again to finally read Bocaccio.

What did happen during that terrible pestilence of 1348 and 1349? Well, likely 40 percent (or more) of Europe died. People blamed Jehova, eathquakes (releasing the miasma) and with lethal certainty, the Jews. Feudalism continued its shuffle off-stage, conditions may have improved for peasants. The church saw its foundations wobble. Fanaticism also spiked. Those who concretely link the Plague with Peasants Rebellions and the Reformation are taking shortcuts, which is understandable. Ziegler's work is one of conjecture and doubt. There is simply so little which can be verified. I suppose the wisdom of the Black Death is that Shit Happens.
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  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
I’m reading these Black Death books in the order I find them at used book stores, which is unfortunately not their order of publication. I should have read Philip Ziegler’s The Black Death first, since it was published before all the others I’ve been reading. Ziegler describes himself in the Introduction as an amateur medievalist, and admits doing no original work but just synthesizing numerous papers and dissertations published since the last major book on the plague in the 1930s. As such, he’s done a good job, but you would be better off reading the more recent book with the same title by Robert Gottfried.


However, there were a few things in Ziegler’s book that struck me. One was that other authors insist that the term “Black Death” was not used until the 17th century; however, Ziegler quotes a contemporary Welsh poem using both “Black Death” and “Black Plague”. Perhaps these were added in translation?


The second was a comment about a water mill in England that had become “valueless” in contemporary documents because the miller and all the client peasants had died. Most historians would cite this as evidence for the death rate or the change in country farming practices brought on by the plague; Ziegler does that to, but also adds that this is an example of the unimaginable personal tragedies of the Black Death. It’s hard to relate to people that died 650 years ago; their names are unknown and their very bones are now vanished to dust. But I did get a little kick in the conscience when forced to think of plague victims as actual people rather than statistics.


Last, Ziegler is in agreement with most other authors on the death rate (somewhere between 30-40%). I’d read this in a number of other works (Ole Bendictow has a much higher death rate but most others cluster around a third of the population), but I happened to think of something else I’d read this time: the mortality rate for untreated bubonic plague is around 40-50%. That implies that if the consensus estimate of medieval plague mortality is correct, almost everybody got it. (Not quite, of course, because there were some cases of the more lethal pneumonic and septicemic forms, and because “untreated” for a peasant in medieval England is quite a bit different from “untreated” for a rancher in rural Colorado). I’d like to see how much documentation there is for people who got the plague and recovered.


Again, worthwhile if you happen to find it cheap somewhere but for an introduction you better off with the more recent Gottfried. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 21, 2017 |
I like how Philip Ziegler's classic story of the Black Death chapter by chapter advances towards England (chapters 1-6) and then tell how the plague affected England itself (chapters 7-13) and finally wraps it up in thematic chapters discussing the lives lost, the social and economic consequences as well as its effect on art and religion. A truly medieval event that was crucial in kick-starting the modern world. While Karl Marx and others stated that theft was at the beginning of capital accumulation, the black death allowed redistribution from the dead to the living in a lethal but not violent way. It is rather surprising that it had not caused more violence, chaos and destruction. Ziegler is amazing in highlighting the continuity of public record-keeping and city life in a tumultuous time. Highly recommended. ( )
  jcbrunner | Jun 30, 2015 |
Originally published in 1969 this book was one of the first, and only, books to cover the middle ages black death plague in an overview fashion. Most things prior to this point were written by scholars for scholars and usually dealt with very narrow subjects. This work is pretty readable. It mainly covers the little we know about the origins of the plague in Asia and how it moved into Europe. The author does capture some of the human side of what it must like to watch your community be shattered by a plague as he talks about how different nations/communities tried to deal with the plague from a medical, spiritual, and political standpoint. Mostly they died.

The author does a chapter on the common village and how he imagines it would have happened to give you an idea of how many people perished in proportion to survived and how that effected society when you live in such a co-dependent small town.

( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip Zieglerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mursit, GillesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosencrantz, GinaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Though there may be controversy over its precise significance, no one would to-day deny that the Black Death was of the greatest economic and social importance as well as hideously dramatic in its progress.
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The medieval house might have been built to specifications approved by a rodent council as eminently suitable for the rat's enjoyment of a healthy and care-free life.
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Wikipedia in English (4)

Book description
A series of natural disasters in the Orient during the 14th century caused the most devastating period of death and destruction in European history. One third of the people in Europe were killed over a period of just three years, and there was social and economic upheaval on an unparalleled scale. Philip Zeigler's overview of this crucial event synthesizes the records of contemporary chroniclers and the work of later historians in one volume. This illustrated narrative presents the full horror and destruction the disease had, and how much it contributed to the disintegration of an age.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061315508, Paperback)

Between 1347 and 1350, the Black Death killed at least one third of Europe's inhabitants. Bringing total destruction, the plague was greeted with incomprehension and a terrified helplessness as it spread from Asia into Europe, reaching England in 1348. Philip Ziegler's classic account traces the course of the virulent epidemic through Europe and its dramatic effect on the lives of those whom it afflicted. It includes detailed chapters on the state of medical knowledge, the position of the church, and the broader social and economic repercussions such as well as a fascinating reconstruction of life in a medieval English village suddenly overtaken by plague. This second edition contains a new preface and a new chapter on the Black Death in recent historiography.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:04 -0400)

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A series of natural disasters in the Orient during the fourteenth century brought about the most devastating period of death and destruction in European history. The epidemic killed one-third of Europe's people over a period of three years, and the resulting social and economic upheaval was on a scale unparalleled in all of recorded history. Synthesizing the records of contemporary chroniclers and the work of later historians, Philip Ziegler offers a critically acclaimed overview of this crucial epoch in a single masterly volume. The Black Death vividly and comprehensively brings to light the full horror of this uniquely catastrophic event that hastened the disintegration of an age.

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