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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.
[A] synoptic histor[y] of the subject treated with the intellectual seriousness it deserves.
— Martin Malia
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
[A] characteristically elegant essay.
— Anthony Grafton
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,
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
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
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
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
[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
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
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
2. Chronologies and Fins de Siècle
3. Apocalypses and Millenarianisms
4. In Dark and Bloody Times
5. Revivalists and Antichrists
6. Apocalypse and Science
8. Apocalypse in Worldly Times
9. Pursuits of the Millennium
10. Time's Noblest Offspring
11. The Twentieth Century