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Search tags: Norman-F.-Cantor
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review 2014-08-25 19:38
THE BLACK DEATH: A DECENT OVERVIEW
In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made - Norman F. Cantor

In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made by Norman F. Cantor is a lecture-type book filled with some interesting facts and amusing side stories; it is easy to read at only 220 pages long and does not have a single footnote. While it might not be the in-depth analysis that medieval scholars would look for on this subject, it was exactly what I (a casual history buff) wanted when I picked it up: general information into the plague, its causes, and its effect on European history. For those reasons, I thoroughly enjoyed it – though I do understand it has its shortcomings.

 

One of the most interesting topics of Cantor’s narrative was his presentation of the current theory that the Black Death was not a single disease caused by bubonic plague alone but a pandemic resulting from plague and a virulent form of anthrax. To support this idea, the author cites to the rapid course of the disease (People were dying too quickly for it to be bubonic plague); the lack of typical symptoms associated with bubonic plague; the fact that the extensive herds of cattle in Europe were decimated by the plague as well; the spread of the disease during winter months; the strange question of how the Black Death spread to Iceland when the country did not have rats until the 17th Century; and the discovery of anthrax spores in the mass burial sites of plague victims. All these things framed the idea that anthrax might have played a role in this pandemic, something that I had never heard before.

 

The other topic that Cantor expressed very well was the idea that the plague was the primary factor in the loss of the Plantagenet's continental provinces. Chapter 3, "Bordeaux is Burning," was very enlightening for me, as it related the story of the death of King Edward III's daughter, Princess Joan, as she was traveling to Spain to marry Pedro, the heir to the throne of Castile. The argument that her death by plague frustrated Edward’s effort to unite the thrones of England and Castile, resulting in immense repercussions not only on the English domains in France but the history of Europe going forward was very well thought out and explained. Coupling her death with the decrease in the Plantagenet population resources and economic power did sound like a very reasonable cause of England losing its continental empire.

 

All in all, Norman Cantor's book was a nice read. It definitely resembled loosely connected lecturers woven together to create a theme than a true, single narrative, but even with that issue, it introduced me to some interesting ideas that I can now research and learn more about. Recommended for those looking for general information about the Black Plague.

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review 2014-05-08 17:33
Middle Ages *yawn*
The Civilization of the Middle Ages - Norman F. Cantor
The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World - Andrew Jotischky & Caroline Hull

Forewarning: I am wholly biased against the Middle Ages and its history. I don't like bothering to wake up and study history prior to the exploration of the New World, and even then, I don't get my history motor running until about the 1650s. So I will try to remain objective to the book, but its subject matter is boring to me to begin with.

 

Do you like church history? I mean really dig church history? Because that is 95% of Canton's book. Very little attention was paid to the different socio-economic groups or women/minorities such as the Jews. I barely skimmed the book (it was required textbook for a history class -- I only took the class because I liked and respected the professor) and used mostly Google Scholar for sources to give me an the reasons for impact of events. This book is heavily personality-based, so events (such as the four Crusades) are secondary to the outrageous personalities of the day (especially all those popes). The most fun I had reading this book was the section on Henry II vs. Thomas Becket - church hierarchy vs. emerging secular/kingship politics....and I still found more information online than in the book (it was probably 3/4 of a page in information). As for the writing, it was dense and definitely written for the historian/history student. I looked up the week's discussion topic in the index, then I read that section -- even then I felt my attention slipping, so I can't imagine me reading the whole chapter/book. Thank you Google!

 

The atlas book was a companion textbook, and such a difference in comparison with the first book. I found the short book immensely satisfying in giving me the down-and-dirty of what I needed to know about the Middle Ages. It was more event and geographical based. Overall, if you need a jumping off point to begin your journey into the Middle Ages, I would recommend this book over the long, dense first book. 1.5 stars for first book, 1.5 stars to the second.

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review 2014-03-28 00:00
Medieval World: 300-1300 (Ideas & Institutions in W.Civilization)
Medieval World, 300-1300 - Norman F. Can... Medieval World, 300-1300 - Norman F. Cantor A collection of documents written between 300-1300, each with a contextual intro. Not a page-turner, but great resource for the time period.
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review 2012-08-03 00:00
The Civilization of the Middle Ages: A Completely Revised and Expanded Edition of Medieval History [Norman F. Cantor]
The Civilization of the Middle Ages - Norman F. Cantor

(DNF) Yeah, I give up. too much info. I might have liked if I was reading it, but the book is 0ver 600 pages. I don't have the patience for this. This would be really good if you had to write a paper but I can't bring myself to listen to the rest of it. There are too many other books I'd rather read. I'm not rating though, since I only listened to about half of it!

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review 2012-05-24 00:00
Inventing the Middle Ages - Norman F. Cantor This is probably the most gossipy 'academic' book I have ever read. Cantor takes as his purpose the outlining of the birth and growth of medieval studies as an academic field and discussing how the main players in each of the phases of its development that he has identified shaped our perception of the middle ages by incorporating their own generational, societal, and personal concerns into what was ostensibly an impartial research of the facts. Thus we have the specific interests and preconceptions of each succeeding generation of scholars subtly (or not so subtly) changing the face of our understanding of the medieval period...sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

Cantor does not stint in his discussion of each of these major players from divulging facts (and I imagine hearsay) tied to each of them and painting each of them with a rather broad brush so that they can be more easily classified. We can even see this in the chapter headings Cantor utilizes where certain scholars are either "the Nazi twins", "the French Jews", "the Oxford fantasists" or "the Once & Future King". I gather that Cantor himself was something of a controversial figure in the field and I am sure this book did not make him any more loved by his enemies. I am not sure how high I would rate this book as a real scholarly introduction to the study of the Middle Ages (not very highly I imagine), but I did find it useful as a source for what scholars and works I ought to look into to get a foundational grasp of the development of medieval studies...and it was certainly an entertaining read.
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