The Black Death: An Intimate History
John Hatcher

The Black Death: An Intimate History

A host of books have been written on the horrendous epidemic of 1346-50, which is now known to have killed around 40 per cent of the people of Europe. But this work provides entirely new perspectives by viewing the world's greatest disaster through the eyes of the ordinary people who died in it or lived through it.

This is done by focusing on life in an exceptionally well-documented rural parish in mid-fourteenth-century England. With scrupulous attention to historical accuracy, and a meticulous reconstruction of the precise chronology, the events of the tumultuous years from 1345-51 are recreated, and by so doing what these folk knew, believed and experienced are brought vividly to life.

A profusion of contemporary sources are used to illuminate this remote period, from priests' manuals, liturgies and sermons, through chronicles, statutes, royal proclamations, bishops' registers, and medical texts, to manor court records and farm accounts. As the world of the middle ages is unfolded medical knowledge, theological debates, pious beliefs, attitudes to charity, farming methods, estate management, serdom and seigneurial rights, family relations, law and order and much more are all rendered uniquely accessible and strikingly comprehensible to the reader. A much greater understanding of the true horrors of the Black Death, and the variety of means by which people and institutions attempted to deal with them, is imparted by placing them precisely in the context of the world in which they took place. And this innovative approach also ends up revealing that the people of the fourteenth century were far closer to ourselves in their beliefs and behaviour than the vast differences between their material world and ours have led us to understand.

Book Details:

  • Author: John Hatcher
  • Published Year: 2008
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Perseus
    • UK: Weidenfeld
    • Latin America : Oceano
    • Spain: Universitat de Valencia
    • Italy: Mondadori

John Hatcher

John Hatcher is Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of Cambridge, Vice-Master of Corpus Christi College, and will shortly become Chairman of the Faculty of History.For many years he was editor of the 'Economic History Review', the leading international journal in the field.John Hatcher graduated from the London School of Economics, where he obtained a B. Sc (Econ) with First Class Honours while studying as an evening student and working as a salesman for J&J Colman & Co. He stayed on to complete a Ph. D and then taught at the University of Kent before moving...
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Book Reviews

  • "Hatcher's everyday story of country-folk in The Black Death is as colourful as an episode of Midsummer Murders"
    Financial Times
  • "…a gripping read - part historical inquiry, part novel."
    Independent
  • "a haunting combination of unobtrusive expertise and considerable imagination…the intimate history reads like a masterfully constructed thriller…neither a work of bloodless historical analysis nor a piece of historical fiction, but a gripping combination of the two."
    Times Literary Supplement
  • "…brilliantly recreated…The characters are interesting and well-realised…and are clothed with personality and dialogue by Hatcher’s fertile and rounded imagination. There is also an excellent evocation of the mental world of the period….With its extensive and pertinent source notes, as well as the chapter introductions, Hatcher’s book should meet the concerns of most historians."
    Daily Telegraph
  • "Hatcher effectively portrays the collective hysteria that gripped the land."
    Kirkus
  • "An unusual yet unusually gripping way to capture the distant past."
    Booklist
  • "Hatcher has created a very readable, engaging work…Lay readers will find the text an accessible and informative introduction to the topic."
    Library Journal
  • "Tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the unstoppable killer plague that devastated a 14th-century English village. Pass the sad juice!"
    Maxim magazine (June issue), included in roundup of “Summer Beach Reads”
  • "Required Reading” column : “For those whose only knowledge of the plague comes from Monty Python, but are willing to learn more, Cambridge Professor Hatcher takes a serious, but very readable look at the epidemic."
    New York Post
  • "This totally absorbing book presents the best account ever written about the worst event to have ever befallen the British Isles. In the hands of John Hatcher…the extraordinary tragedy of the great plague…has been brought to life in a manner rarely attempted, and with a level of success even more rarely achieved…[Hatcher writes] medieval history ‘from the inside’…The technique, offered here with masterly precision and for a lay audience, makes for a history book like very few others, and a triumph at that…Mr. Hatcher has turned his highly specialized attentions to the minutiae of the tale, and in doing so has come up with a book — half fact, half highly informed speculation — that can have few rivals."
    Simon Winchester, New York Suna
  • "...a fine work that gives an intimate sense of the Black Death’s horrors."
    Publishers Weekly
  • "...if this is not the whole truth about the Black Death in rural England, it is at least a good part of it, and probably more than most of the purely historical accounts have given us."
    Literary Review
  • "Professor Hatcher cannot be faulted on his devotion to the detail, or his convincing portrayal of the village of Walsham..."
    Evening Standard
  • "...suspenseful, informative and appropriately horrifying"
    Sunday Times