Review Blog

Jun 10 2013

Plague unclassified: Secrets of the Great Plague revealed by Nick Hunter

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Bloomsbury, 2013. ISBN 9781 4081 9217 7.
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Non fiction. Plague. Double page spreads reveal the history, biology, spread and effect of this disease on the whole world since the Great Plague in London in 1665. From the rats in London, to the astonishing fact of there still being seven deaths a year in the USA today, this is a fascinating look at the disease which caused people to leave their homes if they were not already boarded up inside. Littered with letters, reports from diaries, photos from toady and many drawings and illustrations produced at the time, this book has something for all non fiction readers, particularly those who like to delve into the more ghoulish side of history.
London in the 1660's was a closely built city teeming with ships bringing goods and people from the corners of the world. The Black Death of the 1340's killed about one in three in Europe and outbreaks occurred every few years, but London in the 1660's was very badly hit. Thinking it was caused by rats, these were killed in their droves, along with the cats. Specialist doctors, known by their long capes and strange hawk like beaks were able to sell amazing cures, but people still died. Apart form the facts of the plague and how it spread with information about what the body looked like when it was infected other double pages allude to the appalling size of this calamity. How the bodies are disposed of, where they are buried, who buries them, who makes the coffins, who goes to the funeral: all are questions which had to be resolved, and one diarist noted the stack of coffins in one London street, but with recent unearthing of mass graves, it is obvious that coffins were soon not needed given the scale of the problem.
For inquiring readers, this book answers many questions and gives a fascinating overview of a time in history long gone, although 200 people a year still die of the plague and a different world plague still exists.
A glossary of words used has been included, along with a most useable index, list of websites and further references to read.
Fran Knight

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