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The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time by John Kelly
The Great Mortality is an account of the history, science, and effects of the Black Death, the plague that devastated populations in Asia and Europe in the 1340s. Estimates range from one-fourth to one-third of the entire population of Europe was killed by the plague, with the epidemic ranging from Siberia to Greenland. It differed from previous plague outbreaks by the speed by which it spread and killed its victims, leading to groups such as Jews and Muslims being treated as scapegoats. It led to a near breakdown of society in many countries, and once the epidemic passed, the survivors found improved economic conditions as competition for jobs and resources was diminished by the decrease in populations. John Kelly doesn't provide just a chronology of the Black Death, but an understanding of how if occurred and how those lessons are relevant to today's world. The Great Mortality has received positive reviews with the Washington Post saying, "The Great Mortality is an admirable work of popular history, a genre too often derided by scholars. Kelly summarizes and interprets previous scholarship in a wholly accessible way, and his research in primary sources gives the book its powerful human element."