The Black Death, a nonfiction book by Belmont University Honors professor Dr. Joseph P. Byrne, will be published Thursday by Greenwood Press. Byrne, a European historian and Associate Professor of Honors at Belmont, has conducted research and published articles on a wide variety of subjects, from Roman catacombs to American urbanization. His area of most expertise is Italy in the era of the Black Death.
“I also have a contract with Greenwood for a second book on the Plague, Daily Life during the Black Death, which I will write over the summer of 2005,” Byrne reports. “They asked, and I agreed to produce it. I hope I don’t get type-cast.”
Probably the greatest natural disaster to ever curse humanity, the bubonic plague, also known as “the Black Death,” killed between a quarter to over half of any given stricken area’s population. It swept Europe in the 1300s.
The Black Death is a college reference work consisting of extended topical essays, biographical sketches, and includes 12 primary documents that represent reports by eyewitnesses from the era of the Black Death, reporting from Constantinople, Damascus, Prague, Italy, France, Germany and England. Half of those primary documents have never before been translated into English or modern English. In preparing those, Dr. Byrne was assisted by Belmont alumni Jeff Williams and Patrick Gann, as well as Maggie Monteverde, Associate Dean of Humanities and Professor of English at Belmont. The book manuscript was proofed and indexed by Meaghan Minnick, a Belmont alumna and intern at AB Longman Publishing in Boston.
The Black Death book grew out of Byrne’s dissertation research and his annual Honors student exercise on the Plague.
Byrne is currently in the midst of writing and revising his half of the text for the forthcoming two-volume humanities textbook Our Shared Humanity, scheduled to be published by AB Longman in 2007). He is co-authoring the text with Dr. Devon Boan, director of the Honors Program at Belmont, and Honors literature professor Dr. Jon Thorndike.
Byrne also recently had 43 articles included in the recently released Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia, volume 9 in the “Encyclopedias of the Middle Ages” series published by Routledge. Those articles range in topics from short pieces on Florentine families to longer studies on Italian notaries, nobility, and guilds.
Byrne also maintains an extensive International Bibliography of Medieval and Early Modern European Wills and Probate Inventories and their Historiography on Belmont’s web site, published in digital form rather than as a printed volume “so that it might stay as current as I can keep it,” he says.
The archive is a project that spun off from the bibliography for his doctoral dissertation at Indiana University in 1989. It now has about 8,000 annotated entries for works in virtually every European language.