Finding Truth In History Essay

1259 words - 6 pages

2.14.2011

Assignment #4
To search for truth in history means to put in a lot of work. One would need to go through piles of books and scholarly reviews, researching to find contradictions and different opinions. Then one must start analyzing the sources of these opinions and only then can they begin to decide what is truthful and what is not. In this assignment, we were supposed to look at scholarly reviews of two very important books in the modern understanding of the “Black Death.” In this process, I began by going onto the University of Minnesota website and going into the library page. I ended up on a site titled “Book Review Index Online Plus.” I entered the titles of each of the ...view middle of the document...

It is here that we find the major differences between the two vantage points. This was an obvious choice to me. The other reviews that I chose had some interesting input on the style and validity of the arguments in each of the books. I tried to piece together what I thought the ideal review would have contained. I figured that it would address the main points, explain the background of the author and his or viewpoint, and then look at the actual argument of the book. A good review would look critically at the sources, and with a skeptical view analyze if they are worth mentioning in terms of helping the authors argument. This reviews relatively fit that bill.
Cohn’s goal in The Black Death Transformed: Disease and Culture in Early Renaissance Europe was to dispute the notion that the medieval plague (the black death) and the modern plague came from the same bacterium. The bacterium that was in question was the subtropical Y Pestis. Cohn argued, using very extensive records as well as chronicles, doctor records, and accounts of miracles, that the disease that spread so quickly across Europe could not have been the same as the one that spread across Asia. He argues not only that the Black Death did not follow the symptoms of the Y Pestis bacterium, but that the speed by which the Black Death spread across Europe was much too fast for the spread of the Y Pestis.
Benedictow’s goal in The Black Death 1346-1353: The Complete History was to prove that the Black Death stemmed from the Y Pestis and that the Black Death’s impact on European society was much greater than history was giving it credit for. He argued that it killed up to 60 percent of the population, which is much more that the previously recorded 30 percent. He goes into great detail in explaining the route that the Black Death had in each country. He does this by splitting up his book into 34 chapters just explaining the demographic effect of the Black Death on the inhabitants of each.
The interesting aspect of these two books, and I’m sure the reason that we were given these two books for this assignment is that the two author’s disagree on everything. They disagree on the type of bacteria it was that caused this outbreak. They disagree about the overall effects and population changes that occurred directly because of the Black Death. They disagree about the method by which the Black Death was transported from place to place. They disagree about its relation to the modern plague. It is in these...

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