Many of us know the Black Death as a catastrophic event of the medieval world. But the Black Death was arguably the most significant event in Western history, profoundly affecting every aspect of human life, from the economic and social to the political, religious, and cultural. In its wake the plague left a world that was utterly changed, forever altering the traditional structure of European societies and forcing a rethinking of every single system of Western civilization: food production and trade, the church, political institutions, law, art, and more. In large measure, by the profundity of the changes it brought, the Black Death produced the modern world we live in today.
In the late 1340s, a cataclysmic plague shook medieval Europe to its core. The bacterial disease known to us as the Black Death swept westward across the continent, leaving a path of destruction from Crimea and Constantinople to Italy, France, Spain, and ultimately most of Europe, traveling as far west as England and Iceland. Within these locations, the plague killed up to 50% of the population in less than 10 years—a staggering 75 million dead.
Newbery Honor and Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor-recipient Jim Murphy has written numerous stories based on historical events, such as The Boys' War and The Great Fire. In An American Plague, he tells the story of the 1793 yellow fever epidemic. Bizarre medical practices of the time are discussed, as well as popular historical figures, such as George Washington and Benjamin Rush, who were involved in finding a cure for this horrific outbreak. Pat Bottino's captivating narration adds appeal to this interesting historical tale.