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Book Review: In the Wake of the Plague

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  • Steven Proctor
    OK, so I m in *just* the right mood to write a scathing review, and I ve this evening finished *just* the right book for it, so here goes... In the
    Message 1 of 6 , Sep 1, 2002
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      OK, so I 'm in *just* the right mood to write a scathing review, and
      I've this evening finished *just* the right book for it, so here goes...

      <review>

      In the Wake of the Plague: the Black Death and the World it Made
      Norman F. Cantor
      Perennial, C. 2001

      I have to say that I picked up this book with some anticipation, as it
      is a subject that interests me, is involved in the period I research,
      and is generally treated cursorily and with vagueness at best and
      misinformation and superstition at worst. Mr. Cantor is generally
      regarded as a reputable historian in the field, and so I had some hopes
      of a reasonable read.

      In this I was greatly disappointed. While there is, in the first couple
      of chapters, some interesting information on recent plague research, the
      remainder of the book is shallow and facile, and actually calls into
      question (for me at least) the value of the information presented in
      those first chapters. In his attempts to make the book 'readable' by the
      general public Mr. Cantor has adopted a loose, story-telling manner,
      blithely glossing over important facts, and introducing meaningless
      irrelevancies to a rambling narrative style. In his attempts to display
      the 'relevance' of the subject matter to the modern reading audience he
      spends a great deal of time and effort creating and discussing wildly
      extenuated chains of cause-and-effect situations, and wandering off into
      what are perhaps meant to be humorous asides. The bibliography may be
      the most useful portion of the book.

      Throughout the book he makes casual assertions that are questionable at
      best, and wildly inaccurate at worst, portraying the whole of society
      through a rather dim lens, judging the 14-15th centuries with 20th
      century morals and finding a great deal of fault with the whole. His
      grip on the history of the period in general is adequate, but his
      command of the details ranges from inaccurate to grossly wrong,
      repeating superstitions and old wives tales as fact. His tone on the
      whole comes off as being a rather snide and superior 'why couldn't these
      stupid, benighted people act in a more intelligent manner' way, and
      dismally judgmental of the culture and society of the time.

      On the whole, I would not recommend this book. For anyone.

      </review>

      Permission granted to forward/publish as desired, as long as attribution
      is given.

      Ta

      Adhemar


      --
      It is by caffeine alone that I set my mind in motion.
      It is by the beans of Java that the thoughts acquire speed,
      the hands acquire the shakes; the shakes become a warning.
      It is by caffeine alone that I set my mind in motion.
    • Jennifer Hill
      Adhemar: What a disappointment! What do you think of B. Tuchman s book: The Calamitous 14th Century? Gwen who read it a long time ago
      Message 2 of 6 , Sep 1, 2002
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        Adhemar: What a disappointment!
        What do you think of B. Tuchman's book: The Calamitous 14th Century? Gwen
        who read it a long time ago
      • Steven Proctor
        LOL. That s the first book I ever read on the Hundred Years War, and was really the start of my fascination with the period in a serious kind of way. As an
        Message 3 of 6 , Sep 1, 2002
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          LOL. That's the first book I ever read on the Hundred Years War, and was
          really the start of my fascination with the period in a serious kind of
          way. As an overview, it's pretty good, gives a good feel for the period,
          it's complexities and wonders, and does it without talking down about
          it. While it's not considered deep and serious history she has done her
          research and has a good grip of the time she's writing about, and writes
          in a style that, while accessible to the general reader is not flip or
          condescending. I'd recommend it to just about anyone who wants to start
          looking at the period.

          Ta

          Adhemar



          Jennifer Hill wrote:

          > Adhemar: What a disappointment!
          > What do you think of B. Tuchman's book: The Calamitous 14th Century?
          > Gwen
          > who read it a long time ago
          >
          >
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          --
          It is by caffeine alone that I set my mind in motion.
          It is by the beans of Java that the thoughts acquire speed,
          the hands acquire the shakes; the shakes become a warning.
          It is by caffeine alone that I set my mind in motion.
        • Jennifer Hill
          Oh, good. I felt that way about it, but read it well before I began to research period. What is the next book you d recommend? Gwen ... From: Steven
          Message 4 of 6 , Sep 1, 2002
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            Oh, good. I felt that way about it, but read it well before I began to
            research period.
            What is the next book you'd recommend? Gwen
            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "Steven Proctor" <sproctor@...>
            To: <Authentic_SCA@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Sunday, September 01, 2002 10:26 PM
            Subject: Re: [Authentic_SCA] Book Review: In the Wake of the Plague


            > LOL. That's the first book I ever read on the Hundred Years War, and was
            > really the start of my fascination with the period in a serious kind of
            > way. As an overview, it's pretty good, gives a good feel for the period,
            > it's complexities and wonders, and does it without talking down about
            > it. While it's not considered deep and serious history she has done her
            > research and has a good grip of the time she's writing about, and writes
            > in a style that, while accessible to the general reader is not flip or
            > condescending. I'd recommend it to just about anyone who wants to start
            > looking at the period.
            >
            > Ta
            >
            > Adhemar
            >
            >
            >
            > Jennifer Hill wrote:
            >
            > > Adhemar: What a disappointment!
            > > What do you think of B. Tuchman's book: The Calamitous 14th Century?
            > > Gwen
            > > who read it a long time ago
            > >
            > >
            > > Yahoo! Groups Sponsor
            > ADVERTISEMENT
            >
            > [Image]
            >
            > I'm a seeking a
            >
            > Enter city or ZIP
            >
            > Age: to
            >
            > Show only ads with photos
            >
            > >
            > > ----------------------------------------------------
            > > This is the Authentic SCA eGroup
            > > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
            > > authentic_SCA-unsubscribe@egroups.com
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.
            >
            > --
            > It is by caffeine alone that I set my mind in motion.
            > It is by the beans of Java that the thoughts acquire speed,
            > the hands acquire the shakes; the shakes become a warning.
            > It is by caffeine alone that I set my mind in motion.
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > ----------------------------------------------------
            > This is the Authentic SCA eGroup
            > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
            > authentic_SCA-unsubscribe@egroups.com
            >
            >
            >
            > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
            >
            >
            >
          • Cindy
            What do you think of Cantor s other works? I read _The Civilization of the Middle Ages_ this summer and while most of it was good and helped me understand
            Message 5 of 6 , Sep 3, 2002
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              What do you think of Cantor's other works? I read _The Civilization of
              the Middle Ages_ this summer and while most of it was good and helped me
              understand that time period more, he did make statements that caused me
              to go "hmm". For example he stated that the Vikings brought nothing of
              value to the places they pillaged. Then later he goes on about how
              advanced the Norman style of feudalism was and how that helped William
              conquer and maintain control of England. How many generations had
              passed from Viking raider to Norman lord? It seemed to me that he did
              have a 20th century bias in that book too. He focused only on Western
              Europe - France, Italy, Germany and England.

              Adelheid
            • Steven Proctor
              I confess that I ve never read any of his actual history before. I ve read a book of his translating period documents (where, I confess, I skip over the
              Message 6 of 6 , Sep 3, 2002
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                I confess that I've never read any of his actual history before. I've
                read a book of his translating period documents (where, I confess, I
                skip over the commentary and go directly to the translation) and
                'Inventing the Middle Ages', his history of medieval historians, which I
                found fairly good. This is the first of his histories that actually
                touched on a subject that I actually wanted to read...

                Ta

                Adhemar



                Cindy wrote:

                > What do you think of Cantor's other works? I read _The Civilization
                > of
                > the Middle Ages_ this summer and while most of it was good and helped
                > me
                > understand that time period more, he did make statements that caused
                > me
                > to go "hmm". For example he stated that the Vikings brought nothing
                > of
                > value to the places they pillaged. Then later he goes on about how
                > advanced the Norman style of feudalism was and how that helped William
                >
                > conquer and maintain control of England. How many generations had
                > passed from Viking raider to Norman lord? It seemed to me that he did
                >
                > have a 20th century bias in that book too. He focused only on Western
                >
                > Europe - France, Italy, Germany and England.
                >
                > Adelheid
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                > Yahoo! Groups Sponsor

                ADVERTISEMENT

                [Image]

                [Image]

                >
                > ----------------------------------------------------
                > This is the Authentic SCA eGroup
                > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                > authentic_SCA-unsubscribe@egroups.com
                >
                >
                >
                > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.

                --
                "If I may beg your pardon, my dear lady, I happened to catch your eye
                from across the room and I was entranced by the beauty therein, the pure
                and unveiled light of honesty flashing bravely at me, the sweet coyness
                couched in the depths of your green iris like a dolphin in the sea, the
                smooth marble of your soul in my hand which drew me hither to you," said
                the dark stranger, returning the glass orb to his hostess, who
                gratefully popped it back in place with a soft sucking sound.

                GH/TW d+@ s:++ a C+ W++ N++ K- w+ M- PS+ PE Y+ t- 5++ X R+@ tv- b+++@
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