We don’t think about it much, but massive level genocide or epidemics have wider ranging effects than just the loss of human life. Cantor rexamines some of these effects in the wake of the plague that swept through Europe in the 1350’s. The book is not much of a voyeuristic trip through plague-infested Europe -- Canton minimizes the gory details and chooses instead to focus on the political and social implications of the massive die-off that the plague caused.
Some of these effects were: an excuse for the already extant rabid anti-Semitism, an increase in the moneyed female population as a result of land rights incurred through the deaths of their husbands, and a distrust of any religion that included any sort of benevolent Supreme Being. Cantor examines these topics via tracing the histories of individuals affected and thus manages to put a personal face as well as an academic treatment to the effects of the plague years. The depth of the research he has done is amazing and even though the book is academic in tone, it is still accessible to even the amateur historian.