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Publisher's Summary

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.

While the story of the Black Death is one of destruction and loss, its breathtaking scope and effects make it one of the most compelling and deeply intriguing episodes in human history. Understanding the remarkable unfolding of the plague and its aftermath provides a highly revealing window not only on the medieval world but also on the forces that brought about the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and modernity itself.

Speaking to the full magnitude of this world-changing historical moment, The Black Death: The World's Most Devastating Plague, taught by celebrated medievalist Dorsey Armstrong of Purdue University, takes you on an unforgettable excursion into the time period of the plague, its full human repercussions, and its transformative effects on European civilization. In 24 richly absorbing lectures, you'll follow the path of the epidemic in its complete trajectory across medieval Europe. Majestic in scope and remarkable in detail, this course goes to the heart of one of Western history's most catalytic and galvanizing moments, the effects of which gave us the modern world.

©2016 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2016 The Great Courses

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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informative, interesting, well organized

I really enjoyed the lecturer, Dr Armstrong has an enthusiasm that is infectious. her interest is supported by and informed with research.
Although I typically don't enjoy listening to the insertion of quotations and source citations she does this in an non-obstructive way.
I will definitely search for other lectures by Dr Armstrong.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Tragic & fascinating

Absolutely loved this lecture series. I can't stop recommending it to friends.
We learn so little in school about plagues - and certainly not enough about the social effects. I had no idea how much the Black Death shaped the world - not just the millions dead, but the arts, religion, social norms.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Liked Prof's presentation

Dorsey Armstrong's presentation was great. I have studied history for years years on an amateur basis and found many of my knowledge gaps filled. Now I actually know what a market town is.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Enthralling story.

By the end of the book one really does have tbe sense that we really are children of the middle ages and how important are our modern public health systems.

My next stlep will be to find what other courses TGC and Dr. Armstrong have produced.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Outstanding recount

Loved it, congratulations on excellent content, speech, structure and form.
Definitely stands out as a reference for plague history.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Indeed I shall renounce the superfluous use of the word "indeed"

That is actually my only criticism of this course, and even then it's only mildly annoying and affects only portions of the story. Professor Armstrong has a great delivery. She enunciates clearly, has a good cadence, and weaves a masterful tale of intrigue, history, and science. She skillfully draws connections between events in the 14th century and traces their evolution up to modern times. She makes compelling arguments to support her connections, and she does so in a manner that is both scholarly and entertaining. I would highly recommend this course to anyone who is interested in science, sociology, religion, economics, or, of course, history.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Great lectures - Need lecture names on track title

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, engaging and informative

What other book might you compare The Black Death: The World's Most Devastating Plague to and why?

any of Philip Daileaders lectures on the middle ages.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Not really movie material

Any additional comments?

I love the great courses - BUT PLEASE PUT CHAPTER NAMES IN THE TRACK TITLE. I enjoy going back to specific chapters and re-listening, and not having titles, just 'Chapter 1' makes this more difficult.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Extremely Interesting

I liked how the spread of the plague and its social, economic and political effects were described. Worth the listen in every way.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Very repetitive

There's lots of great history here. I wish she hadn't told the same stories and recounted the same facts 5 or 6 times. It would have been much better and lost nothing in half the lectures.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic!

Love the subject matter. Sometimes the Great Courses can be a bit boring even with interest in the subject but listening to Professor Armstrong never gets stale!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anthony
  • 10-05-16

Valuable interdisciplinary insights to the 'black death' - plague

The 'black death' which swept Europe in the 1300s was a massive epidemic with social, economic and political ramifications. Prof Armstrong offers informative insights from a range of geographic and disciplinary perspectives.

The plague led in some places to vicious anti-semitism, in others to progress in public health and governance. It's impact on religions, commerce and art are described and explored.

Interesting in particular for a specialised readership. Some irritating repetition but I for one found it well worth the effort and time.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • BudoJo
  • 08-16-16

Informative and excellent

This was very well read, with a great level of detail without being too much. I'd been looking for a history of the Black Death for a while and this was just what I was looking for.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Peter
  • 07-26-16

Could have been better...

To much repetition and not sufficient emphasis on Black Death's lasting impact on society and institutions

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Eleni
  • 09-03-17

Excellent!!!

Absolutely loved it. Having tried other books on the same topic, that despite the fact they were full of information were quite "dry" in their approach, I couldn't believe it when I found myself waiting impatiently for the next time I would be able to keep on listening. Thank you Mrs. Armstrong!

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  • M J North
  • 05-14-17

great course. so much info. loved it.

the prof was entertaining and her voice helped to understand and take in the info. i love these great courses as i can study my favorite subjects in my garden instead of sitting in a cold lecture theatre. thanks for another great audio book. Mike N...

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  • Amazon Kunde
  • 03-14-17

super informative

even if you think you know a lot about the plague and how it impacted society this audiobook has more to offer. great listen also because professor Armstrong can tell it really well and has a pleasant voice.

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  • Matthew Wilde
  • 01-10-17

Essential listening for the modern age

Fascinating subject brought to life(?) superbly by the enthusiasm of Professor Armstrong. Her engaging narration lifts the lid on what you thought you knew about "The Black Death", and then blows your mind with what you *should* have known. Piece by piece you realise the true scale and extent of this natural disaster on Medieval Europe, and how it has shaped our modern society. Recommended for anyone with even the slightest interest in life, humans, The Walking Dead, religion, art, poetry, ...

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  • Magdalena
  • 08-29-16

Interesting story

What made the experience of listening to The Black Death: The World's Most Devastating Plague the most enjoyable?

The presenter tells the story with a lot of enthusiasm which grabs one's attention.

What did you like best about this story?

The story made it clear how the Black Death had economic, social, and cultural relevance to the way human history changed and developed.

What does Professor Dorsey Armstrong bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Prof. Armstrong brings in a lot of enthusiasm and vivacity while telling the story. Her familiarity with the subject is well expressed in various cross-subject references prof. Armstrong makes.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The lecturer kept me listening with interest.

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  • Ballina Beach
  • 10-08-16

Fascinating & gripping

Professor Dorsey Armstrong is one of those rare teachers & speakers who has an enormous wealth of valuable and interesting information and share it with her audience with humour, compassion and cadence. She really brought the period alive. Outstanding! I will definitely search for her other courses.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Liz
  • 09-04-17

A fantastic voyage!

Thank you, a thousand times over... I found myself transported to a time of great panic and horrible atrocities and I did come out on the other side feeling sad for those people who had to endure such a hard life, only to die themselves or watch their loved ones suffer. Although, by the end, Professor Armstrong left me with nothing but hope and respect. I am proud to be a part of the strongest and most resourceful animal to walk this earth.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-19-17

The Black Death keeps in giving!

And that is at least in part one of the take away messages from this wonderful course. I'm not a medieval nut and this was very intetesting. Entertainingly read and well researched this course is worth the time and effort!

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  • Victoria
  • 06-05-17

Articulate and informative

Where does The Black Death: The World's Most Devastating Plague rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

An excellent course.

What did you like best about this story?

Interesting, and wide ranging content, and superb lecturer

What about Professor Dorsey Armstrong’s performance did you like?

Dorsey Armstrong is charming, and erudite and humane.

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  • Dr
  • 05-01-17

Brilliant discussion

A fascinating and extremely well presented treatise on all aspects of the Black Death. Highly recommended!