Book Review : The Black Death-A Personal History by John Hatcher

The Black Death: A Personal HistoryThe Black Death: A Personal History by John Hatcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very readable historical book.
One commentator described this book as “History written from the inside” & I’d agree.
The book covers an interpreted narrative around the events as recorded in the Sussex village of Walsham’s Manorial Court records from 1345 up to 1350.

From these basic Manor records – recording fines, land transfers, deaths, marriages etc – along with John Hatchers extensive knowledge of life and attitudes during this period – he constructs a narrative around the lives & deaths of real people in a real place.

Where he has to infere something from the records he draws on sources from other comtemporray authors and locations. He details these sources in a separate Source List at the back of the book (cross referenced to each story vignette in the main narrative).

I found it really brings alive this horrifically fascinating event from the point of view of the peasants, Lords & Clergy alike, building a sense of apocolyptic anticipation as they realise its drawing near through to the actual pestilence and the social upheavals of the aftermath.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to attempt to get inside the medievel mind of the time in a very readable style.

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Book Synopsis

‘Official’ Book Description

In this fresh approach to the history of the Black Death, John Hatcher, a world-renowned scholar of the Middle Ages, recreates everyday life in a mid-14th century rural English village.

By focusing on the experiences of ordinary villagers as they lived – and died – during the Black Death (A.D. 1345 – 50), Hatcher vividly places the listener directly into those tumultuous years and describes in fascinating detail the day-to-day existence of people struggling with the tragic effects of the plague. Dramatic scenes portray how contemporaries must have experienced and thought about the momentous events – and how they tried to make sense of it all.