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The Great Mortality Book Review

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“The Great Mortality” Review
Mitchell Marty

The Great Mortality Book Review
John Kelly’s book about the plague that struck Eurasia during the mid-14th century is a well-chronicled history of life during the 13th and 14th centuries. Kelly overviews the mortality caused by the plague as well as possible events and circumstances which made Eurasia susceptible to such an epidemic. The exact cause and source of the plague remain a mystery to this day but with Kelly’s use of statistics and first-hand personal accounts he makes an analytical argument in which he outlines possible causes and sources for the plague. The book is not a somber read the whole way through, however. Kelly chronicles the aftermath of the plague in which he describes “a triumph of the human spirit” (Kelly 374). Kelly pleads with readers to not forget the circumstances surrounding the plague because the risk of epidemic is still present even in today’s world. Understanding the causes and circumstances surrounding a serious epidemic such as plague is important for scholars as well as everyday people. Epidemics of infectious disease did not cease after the plague disappeared from Europe. Even in the modern world infectious diseases of epidemic proportion have still ravaged populations. As long as conditions are right, infectious disease can systematically wipe out large chunks of civilian populations. During the plague in the 14th century “an estimated 200 million people” (Kelly 11), were killed worldwide. Kelly informs us that if an outbreak of this nature occurred today it would claim an estimated “1.9 billion lives” (Kelly 12). Kelly tries to outline the severity of the plague to point out how an epidemic of that proportion would have a drastic impact on the population of today’s world. The causes and circumstances surrounding the plague are still under debate. Kelly argues that war,...

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