Has anyone read Justinian's Flea by William Rosen


Hist 1720 – The West and the World I (Summer I 2016)


Assignment #3 (due no later than: 11:59 PM ET, Wednesday, June 3)

William Rosen’s Justinian’s Flea offers a fresh and highly readable

account of a dramatic and pivotal period in the history of Europe and the

world, beginning with the disintegration of the Roman Empire, continuing

through the efforts to reunify the imperial lands under the Eastern Roman

Empire (also known as the Byzantine Empire), and culminating with the

Muslim conquest of former Roman lands in the Middle East, North Africa,

and the Iberian Peninsula.

The book seeks to integrate human history with natural history, or

more precisely the effects of disease on the course of human history. Most

people have heard or learned something about the Black Death, the plague

that killed something in the neighborhood of between a quarter and third of

the population of Europe in the 14th century (and also ravaged parts of the

Islamic Middle East, Central Asia and China). Our book deals with an

earlier and less familiar outbreak of the plague that the author believes had a

much more dramatic effect on the long-term history of Europe, and the

world. But beyond the effects of disease, the book also gives the reader

lively portrayals of personalities, political life, economic realities, and

Hist 1720 – The West and the World I (Summer I 2016)


culture during the period of transition from the classical world of Rome to

the early Middle Ages.

The Assignment

Once you are done reading the book: Write a paper, no more than 5

double-spaced pages, in which you reflect on the important and most

interesting points made in the book, including your thoughts on the

connection between human and natural history and on the strength of the

author’s hypothesis and arguments.

The guidelines allow a lot of room for maneuverability in terms of style of

writing and content. I do NOT expect from you a specific format. What I do

want to see is that you actually read the book, engaged with its narrative and

arguments, and explicated your thoughts on it in a lucid and thoughtful


You should feel free to be judgmental about the book, including

commenting on things that were new/old news/interesting/banal/thought-

provoking/prosaic/enlightening/non-sensical, etc. to/for you.

Hist 1720 – The West and the World I (Summer I 2016)


As stated above, whenever you make a general statement, I expect specific

examples from the text to support it. Each example should be referenced

properly (citations should include page number(s), but other than that you

may use whichever system you feel comfortable with).

Make sure to insert ‘page numbers’ to your paper and to put your name on

its first page.