This is a heck of a book, but not because of its subject.It might be possible to write a bad book about Eyam, the plague village that voluntarily quarantined itself while 75% of the population died, but if so, I haven't seen one yet.
Instead, what makes this book so unique is its author: William Wood published this in 1842, well before the advent of modern forensics or scholarship.In some ways, it seems almost childish now: there are no chapter breaks or index or any of the organization we now expect from nonfiction books, and the 19th-century frontiers of science and medicine are readily apparent (at one point, Wood discusses how plagues are caused by earthquakes.)In addition to telling the story of the plague, the author rambles on tremendously about things that most people today will not care a thing about: he includes some poems from a local poetess of Eyam, for example, and considerable description of the various mineral deposits in and around the village, and a great history of the various ancient druid-practices of the area, among other things.
However, his work is really admirable for the amount of time and effort he's sunk into this project.Writing almost 200 years after the fact, with no native connection to the village, he's gone to tremendous lengths to do exhaustive research by every means available to him - and with results of astonishing quality.
In reading this book, you are looking at the 17th century, through the lens of the 19th century, from the perspective of the 21st century - a rare picture-within-a-picture that reveals as much about the time of the writer as it does about the subject written, and makes me wonder how different we will be in yet another two hundred years.Highly recommended!