Daily Life during the Black Death
by Joseph P. Byrne
August 2006, 344pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-33297-5
$75, 63€, A108
eBook Available: 978-0-313-03854-9
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Daily life during the Black Death was anything but normal. When plague hit a community, every aspect of life was turned upside down.

Daily life during the Black Death was anything but normal. When plague hit a community, every aspect of life was turned upside down, from relations within families to its social, political, and economic stucture. Theaters emptied, graveyards filled, and the streets were ruled by the terrible corpse-bearers whose wagons of death rumbled day and night.

Daily life during the Black Death was anything but normal. During the three and a half centuries that constituted the Second Pandemic of Bubonic Plague, from 1348 to 1722, Europeans were regularly assaulted by epidemics that mowed them down like a reaper’s scythe. When plague hit a community, every aspect of life was turned upside down, from relations within families to its social, political and economic structure. Theaters emptied, graveyards filled, and the streets were ruled by terrible corpse-bearers whose wagons of death rumbled night and day. Plague time elicited the most heroic and inhuman behavior imaginable. And yet Western Civilization survived to undergo the Renaissance, Reformation, Scientific Revolution, and early Enlightenment.

In Daily Life during the Black Death Joseph Byrne opens with an outline of the course of the Second Pandemic, the causes and nature of bubonic plague, and the recent revisionist view of what the Black Death really was. He presents the phenomenon of plague thematically by focusing on the places people lived and worked and confronted their horrors: the home, the church and cemetary, the village, the pest houses, the streets and roads. He leads readers to the medical school classroom where the false theories of plague were taught, through the careers of doctors who futiley treated victims, to the council chambers of city hall where civic leaders agonized over ways to prevent and then treat the pestilence. He discusses the medicines, prayers, literature, special clothing, art, burial practices, and crime that plague spawned. Byrne draws vivid examples from across both Europe and the period, and presents the words of witnesses and victims themselves wherever possible. He ends with a close discussion of the plague at Marseille (1720-22), the last major plague in northern Europe, and the research breakthroughs at the end of the nineteenth century that finally defeated bubonic plague.


"Daily Life During the Black Death provides a comprehensive introduction to many of the subjects surrounding the study of premodern epidemics. In his opening introduction Joseph Byrne offers a concise outline of the issues confronting historians of the plague and one of the clearest summations of the debate among scholars about whether the Black Death was in fact bubonic plague or some other disease, such as anthrax."—Sixteenth Century Journal, June 1, 2008

"Reading about aspects of life in medieval Europe-religious, economic, and political structures as well as food, clothing, and crafts-puts a human face on the immense suffering caused by the flesh-destroying pestilence known as the plague, or Black Death. This volume expertly describes people of the Middle Ages under enormous strain to maintain some semblance of ordinary life in the face of terrible fear and adversity. Background notes and excerpts from primary-source documents are included."—Curriculum Connections School Library Journal, April 1, 2007

"Readers who come to Byrne's book with a vague notion of some bad sickness spreading across Europe during the Middle Ages will put it down with a full awareness of the horror of the flesh-destroying pestilence of the Plague, or King Death....Both books expertly portray the lives of peoples under enormous strain to maintain a semblance of the normalcy implied by the term daily life. Each volume comes with a full complement of strong scholarship, including extensive notes, bibliographies, chronologies, illustrations, and excerpts from original sources. The prose and general composition suggest a laudable and consistently high level of editing. These volumes are both recommended for teens with strong reading skills and a background in history. (Reviewed with Daily Life of Native Americans from Post-Columbian through Nineteenth-Century America)"—School Library Journal, December 1, 2006

"Known as the Black Death, the bubonic plague pandemic that ravaged the Medieval Muslim and Christian worlds affected individuals at all levels of society. This text for middle school and high school students and general readers provides an overview of daily life during these perilous times. Twelve chapters look at the impact of the plague on people's activities in such settings as the doctor's office, the home, city hall, and on the roads."—SciTech Book News, December 1, 2006

Daily Life

What was life really like for ordinary people in other cultures throughout history? How did they raise their children? What did they do for fun? From sexual mores in ancient Egypt to resistance music in modern Latin America, and from the fashion sense of the Mongols to the importance of film in modern India, the world comes alive in the indispensable hands-on volumes of this award-winning series. A truly interdisciplinary resource, the Daily Life series covers arts; religion; food; literature; language; romance; rites of passage and coming of age; marriage customs; social and government structure; sickness and cures; warfare; sports and games; holidays; festivals; and more. With direct ties to the curriculum and supported by the most current research, these authoritative volumes are organized in an accessible narrative chapter format, and supplemented with photos, maps, and other ready-reference materials, Daily Life volumes are ideal sources for general readers and students of world history, United States history, social studies, anthropology, religion, literature, arts, and more.

Each volume provides:
• An exploration of complex eras in history on a level accessible to students and general readers
• Authoritative coverage stemming from the most current scholarship and recent discoveries
• A focus on social rather than political history in key curricular areas, providing an in-depth understanding of the nuts and bolts of daily life
• Interactive, exciting details such as recipes, sheet music, rules for games, song lyrics, and more
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