The Black Death is one of the best-known landmarks of medieval history, and has already been the subject of numerous histories in many languages. It is a dramatic and dreadful episode, the stuff of nightmares: an unknown and devastating disease arrives from the East and spreads relentlessly across western Europe, beginning in a Genoese trading post in the Crimea. Italy and France succumb to it, and by the time it reaches England, its full horror is already known and fearfully anticipated. The rudimentary medicine of the time is powerless against it, and it reaches every corner of the British Isles before it finally fades away.
Historians have in the past taken the obvious line of a narrative account, and limited themselves to the progress and immediate effects of the pestilence itself. John Hatcher recently hazarded a semi-fictional version, concentrating on the impact of the plague on one community. Benedict Gummer offers a very