Summary: The Black Death, by Philip Ziegler, covers the epidemic that spread throughout Eurasia around 1348. The book mostly focuses on England and how the disease affected this area. The book also covers other portions of Europe such as France, Italy, and Germany but not as in depth. Ziegler uses the research of many historians to piece together what occurred during this time of grief. Ziegler starts off the book explaining the origins and nature of the plague. He explains how the tartar attacked the port city of Genoa by catapulting diseased corpses in the city’s compound.
The Genoese decided to flee and went further north, which caused the spread of disease into Europe. Progressing farther into the novel, Ziegler examines the other countries in Europe. He points out the raid on Jews during the time in Germany because the Jews were blamed for the cause of the plague. He also mentions the Flagellant movement in central Europe. Members who practiced Flagellantism whipped themselves in order to clear themselves of their sins; it was practiced to keep the plague away. Next, Ziegler starts to describe England.
He splits England into several different regions and uses statistical data to determine different percentages and numbers. In this section, he writes down many details such as how many people died in the area and how the wage levels and prices were affected. He also reasons to may conclusions concerning social economic, agriculture, artistic, and religious effects of the plague in England. Near the end of the book, Ziegler does the most peculiar thing. He actually writes in fiction about a village during the plague; he is trying to help the reader capture the scenes and feel the suffering the Europe did at this time.
Overall, Ziegler fulfills his goal of enlightening the reader with a vast amount of knowledge. Relevance to Course: The Black Death relates to this course because we have studied the area that this book talks about. Although we have only studied up to the Post Classical Era, we learn that they have to face a great deal of challenges. The Black Death refereed in Philip Ziegler’s book takes place in Western Europe, and we learned the different civilizations during the Classical era in Western Europe such as the Roman Empire and the Greek empire.
Moving on the Post Classical era, we learned how different regional authorities were established when invasions from the Magyar, Muslims, and Vikings happened throughout Western Europe; this is how countries like England, Germany, and France were ultimately established. This plague happened during the era after the Post Classical era and killed off more than one third of the population of Europe. Reading this book will allow people to understand the hardships that the population of Europe had to deal with.
Identification of Author’s Point of View: In this book, Ziegler takes more of a neutral point of view. He does not attempt to argue or prove anything, but pieces information from all his research and coming up with conclusions. He has nothing to argue because the Black Death is confirmed to have happened and only a few little details are uncertain. Ziegler uses more of a numerical approach in some parts of his book. He pieces together much of his information and uses it to conclude death and mortality rates. He pieces together much of his information and uses it to conclude death and mortality rates.
I feel like he would do this because using numbers gives an exact value and because his data is not original. Because he uses other researcher’s data, he must find ways to piece them together and come up with conclusions. Ziegler uses fiction in some parts of the book as well. He sets the scene with a village in Europe and describes it as if it went through the plague. In my opinion, Ziegler did this because he wanted to help people have a better picture of Europe at this time. I also feel like he needed his own originality in this book and creates a story to take another point of view.
Evaluation of Argument: Ziegler pieces together evidence very well but does not use it to argue or disprove in this book However, there is one section where he uses evidence to disprove an opinion and bring up his own opinion. Ziegler argues that many accounts of the Black Plague give false numbers on the amount of people that died. Many sources of medieval chronicles state that tens of thousands of people died in cities across Europe, but Ziegler said that this is impossible because if these numbers were correct, the total population in Europe at that time would be too large.
Ziegler then proves that around one third of the population was actually killed and uses church records to prove this statement. Using how many deaths and changes in the churchmen, Ziegler was able to extrapolate an accurate number and prove his theory. Personal Assessment: I believe the Black Death by Philip Ziegler is a relatively good book. It does its job and gives a vast amount of information. I liked how Ziegler incorporated a fictional section to simulate what it was like in a village of Europe during this tragic time.
However, I dislike the fact that Ziegler used so much numerical data. Although they helped see the trends, they threw me off. I feel like the numbers made the book a text book rather than a book for enjoyment. Overall, as I stated before, the book gives an enormous amount of information. If you are looking for a well thought out, well organized book with lots of information about the Black Plague, this is the perfect book. MLA Citation: Ziegler, Philip. The Black Death. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. Print.