The Great Mortality

The Great Mortality

An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time

Book - 2005 | 1st ed.
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A compelling and harrowing history of the Black Death epidemic that swept through Europe in the mid-14th century killing 25 million people. It was one of the most devastating human disasters in history.

"The bodies were sparsely covered that the dogs dragged them forth and devoured them . And believing it to be the end of the world, no one wept for the dead, for all expected to die." Agnolo di Turo, Siena, 1348

In just over 1000 days from 1347 to 1351 the 'Black Death' swept across medieval Europe killing 30% of it's population. It was a catastrophe that touched the lives of every individual on the continent. The deadly Y. Pestis virus entered Europe by Genoese galley at Messina, Sicily in October 1347. By the spring of 1348 it was devastating the cities of central Italy, by June 1348 it had swept in to France and Spain, and by August it had reached England. One graphic testimony can be found at St Mary's, Ashwell, Hertfordshire, where an anonymous hand carved a harrowing inscription for 1349: 'Wretched, terrible, destructive year, the remnants of the people alone remain.'

According to the Foster scale, a kind of Richter scale of human disaster, the plague of 1347-51 is the second worst catastrophe in recorded history. Only World War II produced more death, physical damage, and emotional suffering. It is also the closest thing that Defence Analysts compare a thermonuclear war to - in geographical extent, abruptness and casualties.

In The Great Mortality John Kelly retraces the journey of the Black Death using original source material - diary fragments, letters, manuscripts - as it swept across Europe. It is harrowing portrait of a continent gripped by an epidemic, but also a very personal story narrated by the individuals whose lives were touched by it.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollins Publishers, c2005.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780060006921
0060006927
Branch Call Number: 614.5732 K29
Characteristics: xvii, 364 p. : ill., maps.

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stewstealth
Apr 27, 2017

A well written look at the "Black Death" of the Middle Ages. Well researched, including many firs hand accounts of the plague as well as a good many anecdotes on some of the people who were alive at the time. Some sloppy mistakes that does give pause to the accuracy of the notes as they are not annotated in the text. Worth reading if you are interested.

t
trotter73
Jul 27, 2016

A good book about the Black Plague, which if it had taken place today would wipe out the equivalent of over 3 billion people.
He tells stories about how life was before the Black death struck, possible origins of it and why it was so deadly and the aftermath.

l
LisaWells
Jan 24, 2013

An engaging writer, Mr. Kelly takes a difficult-to-stomach subject and illuminates it with personal stories of the people who experienced it first-hand. Incredibly well researched, but also a gripping tale of mortal peril! Particularly fascinating to me was his discussion of the many controversial aspects of the Plague: where exactly it came from; what were the transmission vectors; why first-hand descriptions of its effects differ from more modern outbreaks of the disease. I wish all history books were this hard to put down!

s
Skywatch
Sep 17, 2010

An excellent read, hard to put down, captivating, and at times a frightening account of the "Black Death, the most Devastating Plague of all time" - Thus far that is! A great weaving and mixture of history, medieval beliefs, culture and practices. One of the best books I have come to find on the subject of plague. Open to debates, skepticism, and the comparison of the historical origins and beginnings of so called science and it's supersitious practices verses our modern science today. The research and reference work done for this book is incredible. John Kelly is a remarkable author. I highly recommend this book.

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Skywatch
Sep 17, 2010

Skywatch thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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