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The Black Death

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  548 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Philip Ziegler follows the course of the black plague as it swept from Asia into Italy and then into the rest of Europe.

When first published in 1969, this study was described by the Guardian as …as exciting and readable an account as you could wish." This new edition of the major study on the subject is illustrated by over seventy contemporary black and white illustration
Hardcover, illustrated edition, 249 pages
Published 1991 by Alan Sutton Publishing Inc. (first published 1969)
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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 4
My first foray into the Black Death as a specific subject as opposed to it being mentioned - often briefly - in other histories of the the period and I found it both interesting and educational.

I found the chapters on the disease's spread from Asia, its entry into southern and eastern Europe to its trail of devastation in Britain well laid out and easy to grasp.

The human aspect is a major part of this book; not just the number of deaths but the affects on people's lives and minds as best can be
Aaron Warner
Exactly what it says on the tin... in the author's own words, this book contains almost no original work, and little new information. Instead, he's taken a huge body of specialized treatises on the subject and parsed them into an eminently-readable book that will appeal to anyone with an interest in the Middle Ages, human nature under adversity, and/or epidemiology.

Of particular interest were the first few chapters where he delves into the WHY of the plague. Not just where it came from (though t
Anthony Ryan
Possibly the most readable account of the plague that ravaged Asia and Europe in the 14th century. The varied horrors described by Ziegler stand as the closest humanity has come to a real world apocalypse, the most remarkable feature of which was the fact that anything resembling a functioning society was left by the time it ended. As enlightening as it is frightening, and a valuable reminder that our tenure on this planet is not as permanent as we like to think it is.
Thomas Fackler
Jun 20, 2008 Thomas Fackler rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Insomniacs interested in epedimiology and the bubonic plague.
Recommended to Thomas by: Treasure City
Ziegler compiled The Black Death in the late 60s from current and historical scholarly writing. As a comprehensive overview of the Bubonic Plague in Europe during the mid-14th century I think it works. As a read...

...the repetitivity the repetitivity of the first half of the the book iss tedious. That is to say, much is repeated in the course of the Black Plague and therefore, in saying as much in his book titled The Black Death, Ziegler (who wrote The Black Death in the 60s) repeats himself, al
R. August
Excellent coverage of the plague and its various effects, both physical and mental. The ending chapters about how it affected the mindset of the medieval people were the highlight of the book, particularly the relationship with the church. The endless chapters about each separate area of England was a little tedious, though given the fact that England provides the best preserved records makes this understandable. The historical-fiction chapter about life in a village made me think of Willis' Dom ...more
What a great book. I would have given it four starts, but I could only take so much death! Ziegler tells a fascinating story of not only the cause and facts of the plague traveling through Europe, but he tells you so much about emotional impact of the plague as well. I picked this up after Bill Bryson mentioned he had been reading it while traveling through Europe. One more reason to love Bill Bryson!
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 ...more
Jim loughborough
I have a soft spot for the middle ages, and am curious about the Black Death. Ziegler is quick to point out that this book is not meant for researchers or historians, but for the laymen, and so the tone is not academic. The main thrust of his discussion is the possible trail of the Black Death and how it impacted each country and the major ports and cities, as would be expected. However I found the lengthy discussions regarding how he came to decide upon these statistics – and then admissions th ...more
Thom Foolery
Halloween 2014 book #3

After one of my favorite writers said on his blog that "the Ebola epidemic has apparently taken another large step toward fulfilling its potential as the Black Death of the 21st century," I wanted to learn a bit more about the original Black Death and see if I can imagine experiencing something similar in this century. Others in that blogger's comments section wanted to do likewise, and for us he recommended this book to which he is partial "because [he] read it in [his] mi
THE BLACK DEATH. (Orig. issue 1969; this ed. 1997). Philip Ziegler. ****.
This is a fascinating history on the Black Death between 1347 to 1350, primarily in Europe and England. It is written in a style that is addressed to the average reader, but the author seems to have done his research well. This was a second issue of the work, published by The Folio Society. The first issue, 1969, came under fire by a group of history scholars – primarily because the author wrote one chapter that featured a
I don't remember the cover of this edition as being so very purple: maybe I got hold of a faded copy.

The 'Black Death' has become a mere shadow of its former self, thanks to antibiotics. The pnuemonic form (far the deadlier, because more easily contagious) seems to have almost disappeared, and there are only a few pockets of the bacilli left.

But in its day, it was a perennial terror. We might never have heard of Newton, for example, if he hadn't been sent home because of the London plague of 166
Katharine Kruse
Ziegler writes, "Statistics alone cannot provide an adequate picture of the Black Death," and yet his book is crammed with them, making it a bit of a slog in places. In describing the intrusion of the plague on the European continent, he spices up his statistics by focusing on a particular aspect of society affected by the plague, e.g., the state of medical knowledge in France. I thought this was a pretty ingenious way to organize the book, actually, as such a broad topic is difficult to grasp w ...more
Gary Land
The Black Death of the fourteenth century was one of, perhaps the worst, plagues of all time, killing probably more than one-third the population of Europe within less than three years. Ziegler provides an excellent overview of this event, beginning with several chapters on continental Europe and devoting the last half of the book to Great Britain. There is an unavoidable repetitiveness to his account for the effects of the plague were quite similar as it marched across Europe and Britain, yet t ...more
On one hand this story was very bleak and depressing but it was also very informative, providing insights onto one of the worst epidemics in human history - the Bubonic plague in the 14th century.

This is not a definitive history or answer to the questions "what was it?", "where did it come from?", "how did it spread so fast", this book is more or less a somewhat basic overview of the history of the plague. To me it seemed more like a very well written and fairly detailed introduction into the l
Britt Vasarhelyi
Feb 03, 2013 Britt Vasarhelyi rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adults who enjoy unusual events in history
Recommended to Britt by: yard sale
This is another of those books I pick up and put down and then get back into days, weeks or even months later. In another review I said I had two such books. Actually, I should have said three.

"The Black Death" is a non-scholarly treatment of the 14th century plague, which began in the Orient and reached all the way across the earth to England. When I say non-scholarly, I'm echoing the words of the author, and, in no way, mean to demean his effort. He's written a detailed book which illuminates
As Ziegler wrote in his preface, this "is not a book for the professional historian." Yet the casual reader will probably get bogged down in the copious estimates for mortality rates and the prices for grain and cattle. Ziegler gives prices in shillings directly from his sources, with only a vague mention of how much you'd need to multiply the numbers to get an idea of today's (1969 rates) prices and little to go on as far as the buying power of the average 14th-century peasant.

The book covers E
Yea I'm kinda sick, but after watching (as a kid )Vincent Price play Prince Prospero in the TV version of Masque of the Red Death based on Edgar Allen Poe's short story about the Black Death plague, I have always been romantically fascinated by it of the few things worse than the black death would be having to read this book! Talk about dry, pedantic and tedious, detailing the population shifts( all the same patterns) from village to village, as well as the plagues effects on ch
David Civil
Ziegler's account of the Black Death is a brilliant examination, which, whilst not focusing on anyone particular area of study in great detail, is a fantastic overview of the 'Great Mortality' which devastated Europe during the mid-fourteenth century.

I found the book particularly useful for my research on the persecution of Jews following the Black Death as well as providing a fantastic, wide-ranging amount of background detail.

Of particular interest to the casual reader will be chapter 13 in
F.G. Cottam
Maybe it has just dated badly (it was first published in 1969); but this is austerely written history that hedges its bets in virtually every sentence. Ziegler's sub-text seems to be that we know almost nothing about the 14th century, despite a wealth of sources. Nothing can be taken on evidence, let alone on trust. Being a fastidious historian is one thing, but this refusal to take anything at face-value is just discouraging, ultimately, for the reader. The subject matter is grim enough without ...more
Craig Tyler
While this is certainly a scholarly work which has 40 pages of footnotes and bibliography, it is written in a readable narrative style. Sometimes the other can not make the narration without coming across as being more well informed than the reader but it was limited and not too much to handle. The best part of the book is the peppering of the narrative with actual diary or written entries from people who were there, or people who purported themselves survivors of the events. I found this fascin ...more
This was crazy boring. I'm sorry I bought it. If you want to know, in detail, what happened during the Black Death years in *each and every* corner of Europe, by all means, read this book. Clearly it wasn't worth the 300 pages. I did learn a lot of new things about the historical context, social consequences, some root causes, but the presentation was as neat as a chemistry lesson. Yuck.
"The Black Death" by Philip Ziegler is not a lot of laughs as you might imagine, but it is well done and I enjoyed what I read of it. I didn't read it all because I'm using it as a reference for something I'm writing.

The think I like about the book is that it is written plainly and not like an academic. I prefer that. Sometimes authors of historical/scientific subjects such as this get bogged down in technical issues, but Ziegler manages to avoid most of that. The book is well illustrated and I
The author proves that there isn't a topic so thrilling and enticing, which could not be made boring...
A longish historiographical essay from a particular moment in the research (1969). Perhaps this new edition has been updated? Ziegler approaches the topic as a complete outsider, one from outside the profession who became interested in summarizing everything on the topic. This he manages well, but the middle of the book, when he's covering England county by county, is a hard slog through deep mud. The final summarizing chapters are good, and students will have a lively discussion about the merit ...more
Christian González
Escribir una reseña de un libro que merece ser leído en su totalidad para comprender si acaso un mínimo porcentaje de lo ocurrido durante la peste negra en Europa parece un ejercicio sin sentido y carente de utilidad, lo que si puedo decirles es que este libró merece la atención debida y releerse las veces necesarias, lo malo es que como tantos otros libros de historia y datos, surgen citas bibliográficas que aunque dan muchas ganas de obtener para leer completa la referencia, estos libros son d ...more
Enjoyed this book. The topic seems gruesome, but the book was anything but. Good read.
Kieran Walsh
I guess I feel obligated to give it a four star given the depth of study that went into this book. I'm imagining that there has been more recent studies into the bubonic plague since this book was published (and i'd like to read more social consequences to the crisis). Interesting that I would have read this when the Swine Flu has just broken out!!!!!! It wasn't the most exciting book I've ever read but in part it was quite sensationalistic so worth reading if you're a history buff.
Very dry, very statistical. Not like I didn't expect the statistics and years and such, but that is all the book really is, and how people got fanatical with religion, since Christianity was force fed to everyone as so real and so literal everyone thought they were meant to suffer. I was looking for more factual as to how it spread, the effects it had upon the body, more of a view of how it affected the human as opposed to the population.
This was, you know, fine? Notable because I ordered/read the wrong book for book club so I didn't even have to read this. (Relatedly, new rule @ book club where we discuss the next book choice before the third bottle of wine &/or confirm by email after.) It's very 60s pop history when pop history was still pretty academic & I was bored, but I do know more about the Black Death now.
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Philip Sandeman Ziegler is a British biographer and historian. Originally intending to be a novelist, he began a career as biographer with his life of Talleyrand's lover, the Duchess of Dino. He was editor in chief at Collins from 1979-80. He has written in various journals and newspapers including The Spectator, The Listener, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and History Today.

Ziegler was educated a
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