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Apocalypses: Prophecies, Cults, and…

Apocalypses: Prophecies, Cults, and Millennial Beliefs through the Ages (1999)

by Eugen Weber

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Eugen Weber appropriately begins his book on apocalypses with a discussion of chronologies and the fin de siecle for, as he discusses, time is a social construct and the nature of fin de siecles is dependent upon this. The differing perspectives of time and the way we view historical events is the jumping off point for his discussion of the views and beliefs of people over the years regarding the end times. It is the book of Revelation and the "dark and bloody" apocaplypse that is described there that captured my imagination and was a starting point for a tour through history of the varying adpatations and expectations of humans regarding Apocalypses over the centuries. These views continue into our own violent and bloody century (both current and immediately preceding) where there are groups like the "Millenium Watch Institute" that keeps "an eye out for signs of the Coming" (p 209). Whether considered as "a growth industry" or a phenomenon of one of many belief systems, Armageddon has been a concept that has captured the imagination of humans for ages. Eugen Weber shares some insights on the history of this and other apocalyptic ideas in this fascinating and informative book. ( )
2 vote jwhenderson | Mar 15, 2011 |
clearly inferior to his older works; not really an interesting read ( )
  experimentalis | May 7, 2008 |
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For Jacqueline My first, last, everlasting day
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When the University of Toronto invited me to deliver the 1999 Barbara Frum Lecture, I was asked, appropriately enough, to talk about fins de siècle. (Introduction)
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From The Publisher: Eugen Weber delivered the Barbara Frum Historical Lecture, based on Apocalypses, at the University of Toronto in March 1999. This annual lecture "on a subject of contemporary history in historical perspective" was established in memory of Barbara Frum. Apocalypses Prophecies, Cults and Millennial Beliefs through the AgesThe Barbara Frum Historical LectureshipA national bestsellerWhat drove eminent historian Eugen Weber to write Apocalypses? His desire to redress the historical and religious amnesia that has consigned the study of apocalyptic and millennialist thought to the lunatic fringe. An absolute belief in the end time was omnipresent until the 17th century, and retains many adherents even now. Apocalyptic visions and prophecies inspired crusades, scientific discoveries, works of art, voyages such as those of Columbus, rebellions and reforms. Elegantly written, as witty and entertaining as it is profound, Apocalypses displays Eugen Weber's talents as a stylist and historical detective; this is more a travel book of the apocalypse than a definitive academic treatment. On the eve of a billennium beset by a host of apocalyptic predictions and cults, Apocalypses offers a sympathetic review of creeds we ignore at our peril.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0674040805, Hardcover)

Plagues, fires from heaven, worldwide computer failure--apocalyptic visions are nothing new. Indeed, they may well be a necessary part of life. As historian Eugen Weber points out, "apocalyptic prophesies are attempts to interpret the times, console and guide, and suggest the future." In Apocalypses: Prophesies, Cults, and Millennial Beliefs Through the Ages, Weber presents a history of end-of-the-worldisms, such as the panics during the sack of Rome in A.D. 410, multiple medieval Second Comings, Yeats's prediction of a "Celtic Armageddon" in 1899, and late-20th-century fears. This is no mere laundry list, however; Weber analyzes each of these beliefs and uses their historical contexts to make them more understandable. Weber's witty prose is tempered by an obvious respect for those with "alternative rationalities." Most readers, however, will enjoy watching these millennial beliefs recur throughout history--and perhaps breathe a sigh of relief. As Weber argues, St. Augustine's advice continues to ring true today: rather than trying to reckon the years before the end of the world, "relax your fingers and give them a little rest."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:47 -0400)

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The author presents apocalyptic visions and prophesies from "the ancients of the West and the Orient ... the Jews and earliest Christians ... Asia, Africa, and South America," and shows how these "beliefs inspired Crusades, scientific discoveries, works of art, voyages such as those of Columbus, rebellions, and reforms."--Jacket.… (more)

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