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In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death…

In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made (original 2001; edition 2002)

by Norman F. Cantor

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1,570527,116 (3.35)70
Title:In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made
Authors:Norman F. Cantor
Info:Harper Perennial (2002), Edition: 1st pb ptg, Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library

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In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made by Norman F. Cantor (2001)


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Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
This book looks at what happened after the Plague ravaged Europe. Cantor speculates on what historical changes were possible only because of the plague and what could have happened without its devastation. I've read this book a few times, and I have always been intrigued by how much was changed in Europe due to the sheer amount of deaths and the lack of workers in the countries affected by the Black Death. Don't go looking into this book as another history about what happened during the plague years, because this doesn't focus on that, only what came after. It's one of my favorite history books and will probably read it a few more times in the years to come. ( )
  Diana_Long_Thomas | Oct 11, 2018 |
My first Cantor history. The story of plague in the context of the 14th century and its effect on institutions, and particular classes and families.
( )
  Kevin.Bokay | Aug 5, 2018 |
This started out promising but the author quickly trailed off into rambling about various English politics and not so much on the plague. At least I learned one little tidbit regarding bathing, the plague and the Middle Ages.
  catzkc | Mar 23, 2018 |
I have mixed feelings about this one, another from the Black Death wish list. Author Norman Cantor has a reputation as an eminent medieval historian, but this book reads like he went through a file cabinet full of unfinished projects and patched them into a book. Cantor’s goal is not producing yet another history of the Black Death but speculating on various consequences; some are quite interesting, but none are really worked out, as if Cantor was sitting around in the faculty lounge during sherry hour and throwing out various ideas to a circle of admiring grad students. To whit:

*Was the Black Death actually caused by [i]Yersina pestis[/i], or by some other agent, or by a combination of things? Cantor comes out for half plague and half anthrax; he seems inspired by the work of Graham Twigg (who, unfortunately, I haven’t read yet) which contends that the plague spread too rapidly to be caused by transmission from fleas to people. However, he seems strangely unaware of pulmonary anthrax and contends that anthrax contribution to the plague was the gastrointestinal variety. Exactly how a disease contracted only be eating tainted meat and not transmissible from one human to another barring cannibalism is supposed to spread faster than bubonic plague is unclear, but maybe Twigg explains this.

*Did the plague death of Princess Joan in Bordeaux in 1348, on her way to marry Pedro of Castile, mark the beginning of the end for the Plantagenet Dynasty (supposedly because England was denied a European ally for the Hundred Years War against France)? Well, maybe, but dynastic marriages didn’t seem to have that much effect on politics and national considerations at other times in European history.

*Did the plague end serfdom in England by giving the surviving peasants much more economic power, since with the ensuing labor shortage they could now sell themselves to the highest bidder rather than having to work for their lord? This seems like a fairly safe bet; every plague historian I’ve read so far agrees.

*Did the plague put a stop to an early development of science in Europe by killing Thomas Bradwardine and William of Occam? I don’t know enough about Bradwardine to judge; Cantor contends he had written various works advocating the scientific method. Maybe; might make an interesting alternate history.

*Did the havoc created by the plague mark the ascendancy of litigation over chivalry and “gentlemen’s agreements” in England, because inheritances were so fouled up? Again, maybe, but I don’t know enough about English legal history to be able to tell.

*Did the plague create yet another Diaspora, as Jews fled to the friendly Kingdom of Poland to avoid persecution as plague spreaders? Seems like a yes; it’s always been popular to blame things on the Jews but the plague did provide a special case.

*In a depressing bit of pseudoscience, Cantor falls for the argument of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe that the plague came from outer space. (Even though this seems inconsistent with his earlier argument about anthrax; perhaps that comes from space, too). His main evidence here is that Hoyle and Wickramasinghe have “impeccable scientific credentials”. Right.

*Finally, did human ancestry in the East African Rift Valley somehow make us more vulnerable to disease? I have to admit I really can’t figure out what Cantor’s point is in this chapter.

Some interesting ideas, certainly worth further study, but marred by Cantor’s willingness to venture into areas outside his specialty. ( )
1 vote setnahkt | Dec 11, 2017 |
Complete crap. I made a list of some of the major annoyances:

1. Jumps around time and topics so it's hard to establish what the world was like pre- and post-plague.

2. Cantor never passes up a chance to demonize the Plantagenets, except for Richard II, who he describes as a "sensitive, intelligent monarch." I know the dynasty had more than its share of utter bastards, but was it really necessary to ridicule their sense of fashion?

3. He makes claims without providing any evidence. (King John was manic-depressive, Richard II was gay)

4. He treats legends and rumors as facts. (Robin Hood, the story of Edward II and the hot poker)

5. Focuses almost exclusively on England

6. Paints medieval people as stupid and superstitious.

Avoid this one like the, well, you know. ( )
1 vote amanda4242 | Aug 18, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Norman F. Cantorprimary authorall editionscalculated
Chovnick, LisaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
DiGrado, KathleenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the sixth month of the new millennium and new century, the American Medical Association held a conference on infectious diseases.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060014342, Paperback)

One-third of Western Europe's population died between 1348 and 1350, victims of the Black Death. Noted medievalist Norman Cantor tells the story of the pandemic and its widespread effects in In the Wake of the Plague.

After giving an overview, Cantor describes various theories about the medical crisis, from contemporary fears of a Jewish conspiracy to poison the water (and the resulting atrocities against European Jews) to a growing belief among modern historians that both bubonic plague and anthrax caused the spiraling death rates. Cantor also details ways in which the Black Death changed history, at both the personal level (family lines dying out) and the political (the Plantagenet kings may well have been able to hold onto France had their resources not been so diminished).

Cantor veers from topic to topic, from dynastic worries to the Dance of Death, and from peasants' rights to Perpendicular Gothic. This makes for amusing reading, though those seeking an orderly narrative may be frustrated. He also seems overly concerned with rumors of homosexual behavior, and his attempt to link the savage method of Edward II's murder to a cooling in global weather is a bit farfetched.

Cantor wears his considerable scholarship lightly, but includes a very useful critical biography for further reading. While not an entry-level text on the Black Death, In the Wake of the Plague will interest readers looking for a broader interpretation of its consequences. --Sunny Delaney

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:43 -0400)

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The Black Death was the fourteenth century's equivalent of a nuclear war. It wiped out one-third of Europe's population, takingmillion lives. And yet, most of what we know about it is wrong. The details of the Plague etched in the minds of terrified schoolchildren - the hideous black welts, the high fever, and the awful end by respiratory failure - are more or less accurate. But what the Plague really was and how it made history remain shrouded in a haze of myths. Now, Norman Cantor, the premier historian of the Middle Ages, draws together the most recent scientific discoveries and groundbreaking historical research to pierce the mist and tell the story of the Black Death as a gripping, intimate narrative.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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