“For many years I told my students at New York University that if they are taking a shower in the college gymnasium and the person in the next stall emerges with black welts under the armpits and  in the groin (the infamous plague buboes) they should dress and immediately leave… Like most things I said in class, this got a big laugh; they didn’t believe me. But I was serious.” This quote can be found in one of Norman Cantor’s many novels. The novel having the title of ” In The Wake Of The Plague” ( page 19). Cantor used this example within his book to try and get people to understand that you have to be cautious, the plague is not something a person’s body can take easily. While choosing a historical topic from the reading list I was  naturally drawn to this specific novel. I was so drawn to this novel due to the fact that the plague had been a major fear and killer within history. Despite having previous knowledge (little to non in fact), I believed that this was an opportunity that I could take to further expand my knowledge. Before reading the novel I had three major questions How a better description of the plague could be made for my understanding,  what  were the symptoms, was it curable,  and last but not least how did it affect men and women of poverty? The plague is a bacterial infection mainly found in rodents such as black rats and fleas. The first ever recorded case of the plague infection was within China the year 224 B.C.E. But the most significant outbreak was in Europe in the mid-fourteenth century. Over a five-year period from 1347 to 1352, 25 million people died. Now there were three types of the plague. The three being the Bubonic plague, the Septicemic plague, and the Pneumonic plague. If left untreated, bubonic plague kills about 50 percent of those it infects. The other two forms are almost invariably fatal without antibiotics. “Bubonic plague, the disease most common form. Septicemic plague comes either via fleas or from contact with plague-infected body. . Pneumonic plague, the most infectious type, is an advanced stage of bubonic plague when the disease starts being passed directly, person to person.” (National Geographic). ” In The Wake Of The Plague” does not hold and overview of the significance of the conscience of the  Black Death as I had fully expected. Throughout the book I was able to find all of the answers to my three major questions. I had even found answers to questions I had no idea that I had thought of. Although for me to be able to find the answers to all of my questions I had to read the full book as well as fully understand it. To answer my first question I had to fully understand the book and how it was written.  He explains within the book that the human existence was not the only casualty; the medieval institutions that had sustained European society for a long time suddenly became antiquated. “Civilization in both East and West was visited by destructive plague which devastated nations and caused populations to vanish. It swallowed up many of the good things of civilization and wiped them out in the entire inhabited world”(pg 6).  He describes it as changing the western part of the world forever. This book does indeed describe the plague but it describes it within sections for the reader to better understand. The beginning of the book talks about how ¨… this book studies the black death in two ways.” “… how the great biomedical devastatin affected particular individuals, both victims and survivors, families, institutions, cultures, and social groups.”( pg 10). ¨ The second perspective is at the macrocosmic level.¨ ¨… Fearsome outbreaks of infectious disease, drawing upon our increasing knowledge of the history of medicine.¨ ( pg 10).  He brings up the facts of how the plague really started. He then talks about the people and how they were affected. Such as the difference between the effects it had on Lords and Peasants, and how this epidemic affected men and women of poverty.  Cantor then finally moves on to the history of the plague. He wrote the book in a very different manner than I had first expected. Cantor brought new theories up about how the plague started. He believed that is was not only rats,and fleas, but also from an outbreak of anthrax( also known as the mad cow disease). My second  question was my biggest question simply because I knew that the plague has no cures at this time. ¨ The first stage is marked by the flu like symptoms, normally accompanied by high fever. In the second stage, buboes- that is , black welts and bulges -appear in the groin or near the armpits…. The bubies first grow as dark accretion on the skin. They vary in size from one to ten centimeters, but are all extremely ugly and painful. Diarrhea and vomiting also accompany this …. The third- and often fatal- stage of the plague is respiratory failure(pneumonia)¨ ( pg 12).  The remedies that were used not only fascinated me but also grossed me out. ¨ The prime remedies for illnesses involved restoration of putative bodily balance through purgation or bloodletting Drawing blood from a sick patient was considered a credible remedy until the 19 century…. Cleaning the bowels wascon desired and effective remedy.  The nineteenth- century medicine introduced antiseptic surgery and anesthesia and smallpox inoculation…¨( pg 9).  ¨ When a human contracts the bubonic plague without antidote( not available until the applications of antibiotics in the 1940’s), there is a four out of five probability that he will die within two weeks¨.(pg 12)Cantor answered my last question by  describing the effects of the plague on the men and women born into poverty.  ¨ the Black Death fell like a tornado sweeping across the countryside. It generated a much higher level of mortality than usual¨(pg 125)¨. I found it extremely fascinating that the only people that benefited from the plague were common lawyers.  Many wives died before the age of 30, especially during childbirth. ¨No historian has yet come up with a statistical study of whether males were harder hit by the Black Death than women in the same family. But there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support such a theory” ( pg 129).  Thus the plague killed many more women than men. Although the plague took a major toll on the lower class it also affected the upper class. This sickness killed even the highest of people such as princesses. Although I was surprised to find that it did indeed kill more women than men. In conclusion it turned out that ” In The Wake Of The Plague” does not hold and overview of the significance of the conscience of the  Black Death as I had fully expected. Thus bringing  down my expectations. Although the book answered all of my main questions with in the end, it was a hard read. It was able to explain the plague for me to better understand the full outcome and consequences of the illness. I was able to understand how it affected many people, and killed over 25 million. I also found out the truth behind what the plague will do to a person’s body. But I also  able to complete the expansion my knowledge on the many different theories of how the plague came to be. Like all thing in life the plague has and will forever exist, although¨ The chance of dying from the plague in the U.S.A today is much less than the chance of being killed in an airplane crash¨(pg 20).

Categories: Articles


I'm Garrett!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out