Monday, 20 February 2017

The Black Death by Hourly History - Book Review

This is a brief summary by Hourly History of the plague that ravaged Europe and several other parts of the world during the 14th century; known for wiping out an estimated 450 million people, much higher than both World Wars combined.

The book starts with the origin of the plague; which happens to be Central Asia, contrary to the popular notion that it was a European problem. The book talked about the fleas originating from modern day Kyrgyzstan moving and how it entered the European continent through Marseille in south west France. The book then went on to talk about the symptoms of the disease and how, nearly every family had a victim to the plague. It also talked about how the society tried to deal with it, mainly through religious means and appointing people known as plague doctors, who attempted to heal the sick; though, the flaw was that appointment required no knowledge on medicine and most of them used to deploy random techniques, including certain brutal means such as flagellation of the sick as they considered that it was happening owing to their sins. It also touched upon the other perceptions of the society back then, such as blaming the plague on the Jews and leading to their widespread persecution (six centuries before Hitler). The book then talked about how this talked about how literature flourished during this period, including Chaucer's Canterbury Tales which touches upon the devastation caused by the plague in some of its stories. The book ends on how despite the tragedy of the plague, Europe needed the tragedy to come out of the Dark Age which eventually led to the renaissance as society began to realise that religion was not the solution to all their problems.

I enjoyed reading the book because I knew very little about the event barring the fact that it was caused by rodents carrying fleas and wiped out nearly 50% of the European population (in fact, didn't even know that it had impact in Africa and Asia). Moreover, the book also brought out several interesting aspects such as the plague doctors and in fact, the fact that the French seer Nostradamus himself was a plague doctor during a much later period in time and in fact, his solutions were scientifically most viable to the problem. I also liked it how the book chose to highlight the positive aspects that emerged out of the tragedy such as the improvement in literature and also the eventual Renaissance, which has brought Europe where she is today.

The only worrying fact that the book brought out is perhaps the fact that these diseases still exist to this day, mainly in Africa and despite all innovations in medicine, if contacted with the disease, the probability of survival is very low.

I had very low expectations when I started reading the book since, I am not the best when it comes to reading about such extreme tragedy but then, despite the expectations, the book turned out to be highly informative and I really am amazed at how the book managed to squeeze in so much information in a very short book. On the whole, I would award the book an eight on ten.

Rating - 8/10

Have a nice day,

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