Apocalypses

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Overview

Apocalyptic visions and prophecies from Zarathustra to yesterday form the luxuriant panorama in Eugen Weber's profound and elegant book. Beginning with the ancients of the West and the Orient and, especially, with those from whom we received our religions, the Jews and earliest Christians, Weber finds that an absolute belief in the end of time, when good would do final battle with evil, was omnipresent. Within centuries, apocalyptic beliefs inspired Crusades, scientific discoveries, works of art, voyages such as those of Columbus, rebellions and reforms. In the new world, American abolitionists, who were so critical to the movement to end slavery, believed in a final reckoning. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries' apocalyptic movements veered toward a lunatic fringe, and Weber rescues them from obloquy. From this more than two millennia history, he redresses the historical and religious amnesia that has consigned the study of apocalypses and millennial thought to the ash heap of thought and belief.

Weber, a master storyteller, turns detective in this latest book as he finds these alternative rationalities in the West, Asia, Africa, and South America. He writes with profound respect for the millennial pulse in history while never losing his urbane and witty style of writing. As we approach our second millennium beset by a host of apocalyptic predictions and cults, this book offers a map of understanding of the creeds we ignore at our peril.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review - Robert Eisner
Eugen Weber, in a humane, witty and ironic trot through history, argues convincingly that belief in the approaching end of time after a final battle between good and evil has permeated Western civilization since before the birth of Christ.
New Republic - Anthony Grafton
[A] characteristically elegant essay.
Los Angeles Times - Martin Malia
[A] synoptic histor[y] of the subject treated with the intellectual seriousness it deserves.
Jerusalem Post - Valentine Vasileff
An erudite and witty account of millennial beliefs through the ages...[Apocalpses] is an elegant and amazingly concise account which we are advised to treat as a travel book of a journey through the underworld of popular religion. Gently and with unfailing good humor Weber adds another dimension to spiritual sightseeing--that of respect for something which, in the words of Joachim of Fiore, might also carry 'the key to things past, the knowledge of things to come.'
Providence Journal-Bulletin - Tom D'evelyn
Tolerant, pithy and suave, Weber picks apart the rationalist consensus that consigns prophesies to the dustbin of history by showing the variety and continuity of apocalyptic beliefs. For him, and I would suspect for many a reader under his spell, time is a roman fleuve running into an unknowable future.
Booklist - Danise Hoover
From ancient and pre-Christian times to the present day, humankind has had an unshakeable belief that the end of time is at hand...When the end doesn't arrive, the event is postponed and eventually forgotten with something like a 'religious amnesia.' The current flurry of emotion centered around the coming of the year 2000 is merely the most recent example of a longstanding tradition. Weber has an excellent grasp of his subject, an accessible style, and an understated sense of humor...A careful reader is rewarded with an unraveling of the mysteries and patterns of millennial thought. It is likely to be provocative and is certainly timely.
Los Angeles Weekly - Ben Ehrenreich
[Eugen Weber] embarks on a selective journey through Western history, exhibiting the prominence of millennialism all along the way...Apocalypses does make many fascinating...stops throughout the centuries...Weber writes in an occasionally elegant and witty, always accessible style unusual for an academic.
Boston Phoenix - Robert David Sullivan
A compendium of greatest hits (or, more accurately, biggest flops) in the 'end is near' genre of philosophizing. The gist of this book...is that at any point in recorded history you could find a significant number of people in the Western world planning for the end...Weber undeniably drives home the point that apocalypticism is nothing new, and he provides a useful service in outing doomsday believers like Isaac Newton and Christopher Columbus.
The Sciences - Laurence A. Marschall
As Y2K approaches, Weber's book is a welcome palliative to those of us who, perhaps despite our better judgement, are getting a little edgy. If the lessons of the past are to be trusted, a little darkness over the horizon is a sign that everything's normal: the end of the world is always just around the corner.
The Sixteenth Century Journal - Robin B. Barnes
To be sure, Weber does succeed in conveying a certain appreciation for the depth and breadth of the Western drive to understand life and the world in terms of a universal end.
Times of Arcadiana - Rob Hardy
With so many popular preachers convincing millions that we are in the end times now...it is wise to take a look at the many times in the past that millennialists have tried to convince the world that the jig is about to be up. Apocalypses serves as an entertaining but dismal history of some of those second comings that never came.
Los Angeles Times

[A] synoptic histor[y] of the subject treated with the intellectual seriousness it deserves.
— Martin Malia

Booklist

From ancient and pre-Christian times to the present day, humankind has had an unshakeable belief that the end of time is at hand...When the end doesn't arrive, the event is postponed and eventually forgotten with something like a 'religious amnesia.' The current flurry of emotion centered around the coming of the year 2000 is merely the most recent example of a longstanding tradition. Weber has an excellent grasp of his subject, an accessible style, and an understated sense of humor...A careful reader is rewarded with an unraveling of the mysteries and patterns of millennial thought. It is likely to be provocative and is certainly timely.
— Danise Hoover

The Economist
A noted historian of ideas, [Weber] traces millennial fears and longings in the West from their pre-Christian roots in Persian, Hebrew and Greek Stoic thought right up to Jonestown, Waco and Heaven's Gate. He points out that reckoning in centuries is a very modern phenomenon, that 'millennium' in the Christian apocalypse meant simply a long time and that, since the writing of the Book of Revelation, there has hardly been a moment when somebody somewhere was not claiming that the end was nigh.
New Republic

[A] characteristically elegant essay.
— Anthony Grafton

New York Times Book Review

Eugen Weber, in a humane, witty and ironic trot through history, argues convincingly that belief in the approaching end of time after a final battle between good and evil has permeated Western civilization since before the birth of Christ.
— Robert Eisner,

Boston Phoenix

A compendium of greatest hits (or, more accurately, biggest flops) in the 'end is near' genre of philosophizing. The gist of this book...is that at any point in recorded history you could find a significant number of people in the Western world planning for the end...Weber undeniably drives home the point that apocalypticism is nothing new, and he provides a useful service in outing doomsday believers like Isaac Newton and Christopher Columbus.
— Robert David Sullivan

Jerusalem Post

An erudite and witty account of millennial beliefs through the ages...[Apocalpses] is an elegant and amazingly concise account which we are advised to treat as a travel book of a journey through the underworld of popular religion. Gently and with unfailing good humor Weber adds another dimension to spiritual sightseeing—that of respect for something which, in the words of Joachim of Fiore, might also carry 'the key to things past, the knowledge of things to come.'
— Valentine Vasileff

The Sciences

As Y2K approaches, Weber's book is a welcome palliative to those of us who, perhaps despite our better judgement, are getting a little edgy. If the lessons of the past are to be trusted, a little darkness over the horizon is a sign that everything's normal: the end of the world is always just around the corner.
— Laurence A. Marschall

Providence Journal-Bulletin

Tolerant, pithy and suave, Weber picks apart the rationalist consensus that consigns prophesies to the dustbin of history by showing the variety and continuity of apocalyptic beliefs. For him, and I would suspect for many a reader under his spell, time is a roman fleuve running into an unknowable future.
— Tom D'Evelyn

Los Angeles Weekly

[Eugen Weber] embarks on a selective journey through Western history, exhibiting the prominence of millennialism all along the way...Apocalypses does make many fascinating...stops throughout the centuries...Weber writes in an occasionally elegant and witty, always accessible style unusual for an academic.
— Ben Ehrenreich

The Sixteenth Century Journal

To be sure, Weber does succeed in conveying a certain appreciation for the depth and breadth of the Western drive to understand life and the world in terms of a universal end.
— Robin B. Barnes

Times of Arcadiana

With so many popular preachers convincing millions that we are in the end times now...it is wise to take a look at the many times in the past that millennialists have tried to convince the world that the jig is about to be up. Apocalypses serves as an entertaining but dismal history of some of those second comings that never came.
— Rob Hardy

Los Angeles Times
[A] synoptic histor[y] of the subject treated with the intellectual seriousness it deserves.
— Martin Malia
Booklist
From ancient and pre-Christian times to the present day, humankind has had an unshakeable belief that the end of time is at hand...When the end doesn't arrive, the event is postponed and eventually forgotten with something like a 'religious amnesia.' The current flurry of emotion centered around the coming of the year 2000 is merely the most recent example of a longstanding tradition. Weber has an excellent grasp of his subject, an accessible style, and an understated sense of humor...A careful reader is rewarded with an unraveling of the mysteries and patterns of millennial thought. It is likely to be provocative and is certainly timely.
— Danise Hoover
New Republic
[A] characteristically elegant essay.
— Anthony Grafton
New York Times Book Review
Eugen Weber, in a humane, witty and ironic trot through history, argues convincingly that belief in the approaching end of time after a final battle between good and evil has permeated Western civilization since before the birth of Christ.
— Robert Eisner,
Boston Phoenix
A compendium of greatest hits (or, more accurately, biggest flops) in the 'end is near' genre of philosophizing. The gist of this book...is that at any point in recorded history you could find a significant number of people in the Western world planning for the end...Weber undeniably drives home the point that apocalypticism is nothing new, and he provides a useful service in outing doomsday believers like Isaac Newton and Christopher Columbus.
— Robert David Sullivan
Jerusalem Post
An erudite and witty account of millennial beliefs through the ages...[Apocalpses] is an elegant and amazingly concise account which we are advised to treat as a travel book of a journey through the underworld of popular religion. Gently and with unfailing good humor Weber adds another dimension to spiritual sightseeing--that of respect for something which, in the words of Joachim of Fiore, might also carry 'the key to things past, the knowledge of things to come.'
— Valentine Vasileff
The Sciences
As Y2K approaches, Weber's book is a welcome palliative to those of us who, perhaps despite our better judgement, are getting a little edgy. If the lessons of the past are to be trusted, a little darkness over the horizon is a sign that everything's normal: the end of the world is always just around the corner.
— Laurence A. Marschall
Providence Journal-Bulletin
Tolerant, pithy and suave, Weber picks apart the rationalist consensus that consigns prophesies to the dustbin of history by showing the variety and continuity of apocalyptic beliefs. For him, and I would suspect for many a reader under his spell, time is a roman fleuve running into an unknowable future.
— Tom D'Evelyn
Los Angeles Weekly
[Eugen Weber] embarks on a selective journey through Western history, exhibiting the prominence of millennialism all along the way...Apocalypses does make many fascinating...stops throughout the centuries...Weber writes in an occasionally elegant and witty, always accessible style unusual for an academic.
— Ben Ehrenreich
The Sixteenth Century Journal
To be sure, Weber does succeed in conveying a certain appreciation for the depth and breadth of the Western drive to understand life and the world in terms of a universal end.
— Robin B. Barnes
Times of Arcadiana
With so many popular preachers convincing millions that we are in the end times now...it is wise to take a look at the many times in the past that millennialists have tried to convince the world that the jig is about to be up. Apocalypses serves as an entertaining but dismal history of some of those second comings that never came.
— Rob Hardy
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674003958
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2000
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Eugen Weber was Joan Palevsky Professor of Modern European History, Emeritus, at the University of California, Los Angeles.
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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Chronologies and Fins de Siècle

3. Apocalypses and Millenarianisms

4. In Dark and Bloody Times

5. Revivalists and Antichrists

6. Apocalypse and Science

7. Enlightenment?

8. Apocalypse in Worldly Times

9. Pursuits of the Millennium

10. Time's Noblest Offspring

11. The Twentieth Century

12. Conclusion

Notes

Index

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