Get a free audiobook

The Great Mortality

An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time
Written by: John Kelly
Narrated by: Matthew Lloyd Davies
Length: 12 hrs and 55 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (11 ratings)

CDN$ 14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Publisher's Summary

La moria grandissima began its terrible journey across the European and Asian continents in 1347, leaving unimaginable devastation in its wake. Five years later, 25 million people were dead, felled by the scourge that would come to be called the Black Death. The Great Mortality is the extraordinary epic account of the worst natural disaster in European history - a drama of courage, cowardice, misery, madness, and sacrifice that brilliantly illuminates humankind's darkest days when an old world ended and a new world was born.

©2005 John Kelly (P)2018 Tantor

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    6
  • 4 Stars
    4
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    1

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    9
  • 4 Stars
    1
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    6
  • 4 Stars
    4
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    1

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Very informative and easy to read

I loved the book but I found it a bit difficult to keep up at times because it is in audiobook format. I found the book very informative. The narrator was perfect for the story.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • brooke browning
  • 2019-08-04

OUTSTANDING

I listen to audiobooks about history constantly but this is the only one I’ve listened to straight through over the course of a day. Writing consists of vivid storytelling interwoven so deftly with scientific and historical information that you accidentally learn a ton while being entertained. The narrator is the best I’ve heard and his renditions of sad poems, various accents, and individual characters earn him my Best Ever Award.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Francesca
  • 2019-12-14

Excellent book and narration

I admit to being confused about some of the reviews, especially the ones that talk about Matthew Lloyd Davies' fake English accent. Yes, I'm sure that's why he was once with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Nothing fake about that accent, and the delivery was superb. Very enjoyable, well researched and a good book. I've read most books on the 14th century plague, and this one ranks very high on that list. Yes, there is always similarity between the books, but historians do draw on the same source material. Modern man can still learn from so much from the 14th century, from the climate change to the the plague and it's impact on society, language and economics.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Marian
  • 2019-04-26

Take Home Lesson: Take a Daily Bath!

I will never look at Marmot brand down jackets the same way again!! This is an older book from 2006 that has held up well enough for my Audible reading in 2019. The systematic Grand Tour from city to city and region to region succeeds in communicating the flow of the Great Plague. Lots of surprising treats - - - can you imagine someone being admired in any age or under any conditions for never taking a bath in their whole life??? I accept the research and opinions of the author he offers for historic plague outbreaks. I think some readers would find the level of detail tiring, but I appreciated it and re-listened to several chapters. The reader performs with a British accent; I found it to be acceptable and not distracting to my California dialect ears. One flaw: the Audible book does not have labelled chapters for the app. This makes it difficult to navigate if you use more than one Audible listening device as the syncing was also not perfect every time. I deduct one star because of the book's age without any effort to offer an update for the Audible release.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-05-02

Mixed feelings

The good: Well-researched. Reader has a pleasant voice.

The bad: The (probably necessary) duplication of information got a bit annoying. The reader’s delivery style on this book would have been better suited to a bedtime story, it was so measured and mellow.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • CartoChick
  • 2019-01-29

Fantastic book well read

My favorite book on the Black Death; I’ve read about 5. Full of primary sources. Very enjoyable if not cheery.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • 🌈☮️ MICHÆL IRVINE ❤️
  • 2020-03-16

Amazing Compendium of Horrors

As someone who’s studied the Black Death with fascination since childhood; having read innumerable scholarly books and fiction on this subject too, I feel qualified to render an informed judgement, regarding this remarkable opus. To be candid, I thought this book overall, is the very best of any of the great many books 📚 I’ve thusfar read on this subject of Yesternia Pestis pandemics, and the Great Mortality in particular. Furthermore, I most throughly enjoyed listening to this reader’s wonderful interpretation of deep humanity of this work. Also, regarding the book itself, I particularly appreciated the unique, excellent details regarding the great horrific Medieval holocaust of Jews, whom as a whole, were blamed for causing the Great Mortality — even though Jews suffered from the evils of the Black Death equally and on par with Christians across Europe. Yet nonetheless, the Great Lie about Jewish culpability for the Black Death was very widely believed. Yet completely and totally without the slightest degree of merit: Jews being very widely believed to doubtlessly the single cause of the Black Death, via poisoning wells and springs, all across 14th Century A.D. Europe. What’s more, it was also near-universally believed there was a secret “Jewish Conspiracy” and an attempt by Jews, to bring about Jewish World 🌍 Domination. Undoubtedly, this was the precursor to the 20th Century A.D. Holocaust, which in the 14th Century, almost resulted in a near-extermination of all Jews of Europe, save for the then-Mohammedan portion of what became Spain.

This book was the very first I have read on the Medieval Black Death, which also gave a detailed, unflinching account of the very real Western European conspiracy to utterly destroy European Jewry. Furthermore, this book explains —like no other— how Jewish flight from persecution and death, lead so many to settle in Poland, which far later was again decimated almost completely, by the German Nazis of WW2. Likewise, this book explains in detail, medieval sources of what became standard (recycled) Nazi Propaganda against Jews and was partly the Nazi rationale for why the Jews should be murdered without mercy, exactly as occurred back in the 14th Century A.D.

Beyond the details of Black Death-inspired Jewish extermination programs, carried out almost entirely by poor, ordinary so-called “Christians”. — Yet totally ignoring even the loud, vehement, well-articulated condemnations of all the murderous Medieval antisemitism movements by the Catholic Popes.

In addition to anti-Jewish movements during the great Medieval Pandemic, there are also many uplifting fascinating facts, regarding the hopeful first shoots of Modernism: Such as the great technological & social progress made, in the aftermath of the Black Death. Beyond that, the book also explains well how both Modern Scholarship and Medicine arose too, which definitely helps to balance out what otherwise, at times, certainly feels like an unrelenting litany of horrors; the Black Death and the great many other incredibly terrible — and unrelenting — outbreaks of fatal disease epidemics, both during and after the Black Death of the early Middle Ages.

With all the above in mind, I do wish the author addressed a little more of the positive developments out of the Middle Ages. Furthermore, specifically much more on specific medical details of the three forms the Black Plague takes, plus differences between how each type of Plague was spread, in each of the three major Black Plague pandemics. Still further, details on Yesternia Pestis’ reappearances even unto our own times — such as its now very scary version in Madagascar, which is impossible to treat or even partly control, with even the most powerful, modern 21st Century antibiotics. Still further, I’d also like to have seen comments as well about the very recent academic revisionist claims (as taught in the “Great Courses” university class, regarding the history of each Black Death pandemic, up through the Middle Ages) and that the Great Mortality is now commonly considered by world academic scholars today, as having been FAR WORSE than was ever previously thought. — How about dealing with that, rather than expounding on the ludicrous, quite outdated arguments, once vainly harbored against even the very notion of the existence of the Black Death as a Yesternia Pestis pandemic, in the 14th Century A.D. — As a pile of mere academic hubris.

All things considered, the Great Mortality — I feel strongly — is now the best historical work available on the Black Death and thus, is the best on the subject I’ve ever read. Moreover, the reading of the book, The Great Mortality was truly wonderfully and artfully read. By listening to this book, it was made a great book, even more entertaining; foremost in my mind, was overall how quite brilliantly the book was delivered aloud. —Bravo!!!!

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-08-25

Start with Chapter 15 of 16 in Audio Book

This is a personal tale that starts then jumps to now and back again. This is a bit jittery at times, especially when listening, but the author anticipates the reader's questions and concerns. The narrator is easy to listen to. The text is hopeful, even in the mist of great death, and the reader does a good job conveying this tone. Chapter 15 shares the author's relationship with the subject such that the reader can understand why the Black Death is personified. Good read and recommended in the booklet that comes with The Great Courses series on the Black Death. Dr. T.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • denderooo
  • 2019-01-01

Terrible Narration

The narrator sounds seems to think that the way to make a point is to lower your voice to a whisper at the end of the sentence. That is an annoying affectation to begin with, but when you're finding yourself constantly adjusting the volume to account for it, it's time to return the book.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Denise
  • 2019-12-08

A bit dry

I found the reader to be a little hard to listen to because the volume of his voice would change in a sentence and I kept missing stuff or having to adjust the volume. The book is full of facts from the black death and the author is happy to reference every single one in the reading. It seemed to me that it could have been complied better and read more smoothly instead of every other sentence ending with XXX said this or YYY wrote from this era. It made the listen very dry and stuttery. The parts that weren't quoted from other books he seemed to try to spice up but they just seemed really melodramatic to me, but that also might be that I was noticing the difference in tone a lot.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Sue
  • 2020-05-21

Read during the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic.

Excellent history of the pandemic of the 1300's. I listened to this in May 2020 while the stay at home order on for the COVID-19 pandemic. Really glad we are not facing the plague of the 1300's and that our medical knowledge so much better. Read this book and hopefully you will realize most aggravations we face are nothing compared to daily life back then. Well researched. Reads like a novel, although it is a history book. Very grateful for the care we receive and our projected life span compared to back then.

Strongly recommend this book. Length a bargain. I did take two breaks from listening to it to listen to other books because the subject matter so sad. Ended on a positive note about the resilience of the human species.