The Scourging Angel, a History of the Black Death in the British Isles, with Benedict Gummer, MP

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Nothing experienced in human history, before or since, eclipses the terror, tragedy and scale of the Black Death, the disease that devastated medieval Europe.

The Black Death of 1348-50 seems to have killed almost everyone who developed the symptoms; and since approximately half the population of Britain did so, nearly half the population died.

Ben Gummer brilliantly describes the inexorable march of this disease from China into Northern Europe and throws new light onto both its origins and its effects. Did it cause a social and economic revolution in Europe or merely hasten a process that was already underway? Did it spread via rats on ships or from the invasions of Mongol armies? How was it brought to Britain and what were contemporary reactions to the devastation? Was the Black Death the Bubonic plague or something entirely different and now unknown? And, awful thought, could it return?


Ben Gummer MP

Ben was a music scholar and took a starred Double First in History at Peterhouse, Cambridge. His book, The Scourging Angel, was published to universal acclaim in 2009. For some reason, he is blessed with a particular insight into pandemic diseases. He is the son of John Selwyn Gummer, Baron Deben, and he became MP for Ipswich in 2010.

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Reviews for The Scourging Angel

ANDREW ROBERTS ~ _THE TELEGRAPH: Books of the Year - "A moving and incisive history of the Black Death.”

[THE GUARDIAN ~ Kathryn Hughes: “Stories to excite your inner eight-year-old … a timely reminder that when biology goes bad, there are no boundaries.

NOEL MALCOLM IN THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH: “What [Benedict Gummer] does very well indeed is to gather the best that has been thought and written about the great death and plait it into a coherent narrative for a general audience.”

PROSPECT MAGAZINE: “Book of the Year” “Gripping and illuminating. What he does is retell the story with extraordinary colour and clarity, using the medieval plague as the frame for a vast panorama that encompasses self-flagellating monks, Perpendicular churches, bloody battles and grime-encrusted peasants. It’s a terrific debut, brimming with life and detail.”

2011Martin Keeley