Over six hundred and fifty years ago, an unknown disease arrived in Dorset, from where it quickly spread throughout the British Isles. Within the short space of two years it had killed between one third and one half of the population. This distant calamity still has a hold on our historical imagination. Almost every school child is taught about the “Black Death” and its supposed spread by rats and fleas; historians have credited the pandemic with the end of the feudal system, an unprecedented questioning of the authority of the Church, a new relationship between ruler and ruled, and a fundamental shift in artistic and architectural taste. Some commentators have gone further still: they perceive in the Great Pestilence not just the death of millions but of the medieval world itself – the point at which the Middle Ages drew its last gasp and the modern era was born.
The Scourging Angel is the first history of the Black Death in the British Isles for nearly forty years: it presents the Great Pestilence in a new narrative light, describing the progress of the disease and illuminating the world it broke into and left behind. The Scourging Angel assesses the reaction of individuals and communities to overwhelming disaster and revises many of the previously accepted conclusions about the period and the disease itself.
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