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The Black Death: New Lessons from Recent Research  By  cover art

The Black Death: New Lessons from Recent Research

By: Dorsey Armstrong,The Great Courses
Narrated by: Dorsey Armstrong
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Publisher's Summary

The world has been fundamentally changed by the shock and devastation of a 21st century pandemic. COVID-19 has claimed six million lives; we process a daily deluge of often conflicting and/or overwhelming information; and humanity has no way of knowing when this collective trauma will finally end. Will our lives ever be the same again? It seems not.

Now, try to imagine the plague that devastated Europe in the Middle Ages and beyond: more than 25 million dead. Almost 400 years of outbreaks caused by a bacterium that would not be identified until the 19th century. The mortality rate was close to 85%, with as much as 70% of the population wiped out in some locations. Superstition was pervasive, and medical practices were frequently ineffective and harmful. What caused this tragedy, and what could have been done about it? For years, we thought we knew … but we often had it wrong. 

In The Black Death: New Lessons from Recent Research, celebrated medievalist Dorsey Armstrong shares the fascinating new story of this old pandemic—revealed by dedicated researchers working with 21st-century technologies and a knowledge of language and history that now provide input from all geographic areas of the medieval world. In seven engaging lectures, Professor Armstrong corrects explanations of the pandemic that are now known to be inaccurate and offers a more robust description of plague biology than has ever been known. COVID-19 isn’t likely to be humanity’s last experience with a zoonotic disease, so what can we learn now from these two pandemics that could help us in the future?

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2022 The Great Courses (P)2022 The Teaching Company, LLC

What listeners say about The Black Death: New Lessons from Recent Research

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Too much personal commentary on current political

Less substance than her earlier courses. Too woke. Not interested in her political commentary.

6 people found this helpful

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50 percent about plague, 50 percent COVID politics

I enjoyed the scientific updates about plague and some historical adjustments. My third lecture series by this author . . . this one is not so good as the others.

A lot of silly talk about COVID in the US unfortunately. COVID simply does not compare to the plague. Where it does compare may be in examining various institutions and human reactions. But here only a very slanted select commentary is offered -- and one that is often significantly wrong and/or half-sided. There is a whole rant about naming illnesses and how that means you are blaming "other" people's and nationalities. Of course it is logical that if a disease is named for a location then we should expect the average less sophisticated humans to commit violence or use it as an excuse to commit violence seems to be the rationale. However it is also considered to be something structurally wrong with society that is being revealed ... yada yada... yawn.


Nevertheless, I will pick up other works by the author. She has many interesting topics and this was no less than my third audiobook from her.

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Too Political at Points

I have typically enjoyed Prof. Armstrong's Great Courses lectures. She presents on her subject areas with clarity, wit, and a firm command of the material. Unfortunately, with this follow-up to her course on the Black Death, she regurgitates many of the political talking points we've heard over the course of the pandemic. She presents these assertions as truths without any critical assessment as to their veracity. Seriously, is it necessary everything be politicized.

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Not strictly scientific

Difficult to listen to. Topics presented with biased opinions inserted. Entertains thoughts of COVID parallel thrown in.

3 people found this helpful

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Excellent followup to original course


Dorsey provides an interesting update and corrections to topics covered. In her original course.

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Didn't Appreciate

Didn't appreciate the political narratives added to this book, didn't need to be added, didn't have anything to do with it.

1 person found this helpful

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LOVE Dorsey Armstrong

I have several Audible books by Dorsey Armstrong because she is awesome as a narrator, and her writings are very interesting, as well as informative. I’m glad I stumbled upon this update to her previous lecture on The Black Death. It gives insight into not just history, but human behaviors when confronted by severe pestilence. My only problem is having to re-listen to previous minutes of the lecture because I listen to them while doing something else such as driving, washing dishes, etc. Her lectures are so good, you want to absorb every word! I would suggest opening the PDFs and focusing solely on the lecture rather than listening while doing other stuff, if you have the opportunity to do so. Great lectures, Dorsey! Fingers crossed that you’ll do more!

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Awesome follow up to a great series

You definitely should listen to Dr. Armstrong's original series on The Black Death before this one, it is fantastic and much more comprehensive.

This was a perfect follow up. New research is presented, and the comparisons between Plague and COVID-19 are fascinating. I highly recommend both of these complementarity lecture series.

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Appreciated, but repetitive and lacking solid, specific next steps

Helpful additions about the new scientific research done, I appreciated the lecturer admitting where she got it wrong and taking time to correct her mistakes and include updated research results. However, it was quite repetitive in the last two lectures. Likewise, I was hoping to hear some more specifics on how the lecturer thinks the changes she feels are needed in the U.S. could actually be accomplished. It’s easy to say change is needed; it’s another to suggest thoughtful solutions toward that change.

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More Covid Fearmongering!

How about only information upon which you are a supposed "expert"? That would be nice. However, if you want a minimum of novel info on the Black Death and self-righteous, sanctimonious, pretentious suppositions on how Covid and the Black Death are analogous (not even f*kn close!) this is a phenomenal listen. Otherwise, don't waste your time! It is a farce!

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  • Sarah E.
  • 11-29-22

Accessible, entertaining, expert learning

Prof. Armstrong is known as an expert in medieval studies, and rightly so, but it is this knowledge combined with her accessible, down-to-earth, and friendly lecturing style that makes her lectures such effective and entertaining listens.

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  • dennise
  • 10-07-22

Interesting for understanding Pandemics

Excellent reader. Easy to follow and understand. I was interested in links to understanding the Covid Pandemic by hearing about zoonomic disease and the latest information about this great historical event of the 1300s.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-28-22

informative

Author managed to present a very educational summary of various things to do with the black death and make some comparisons to the current COVID-19. Clearly presented. I really enjoyed it.

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  • Paul
  • 08-09-22

Brilliant

Only complaint would be I wish it was longer.
It’s an excellent follow up to the Black Death course with new information.
Also good for viewing covid through the lens of history.

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  • Ludy
  • 07-30-22

Enlightening facts enjoyably presented

New research on the transmission of this disease through evolution, cultural,commercial and military means. Presented in a clear manner easily understood by a untrained but inquiring mind.