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The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 27. Juni 1993

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  • Taschenbuch: 432 Seiten
  • Verlag: Pimlico; Auflage: New Ed (27. Juni 1993)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0712656642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712656641
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13,6 x 3,1 x 21,5 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (3 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 425.794 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)

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At the end of the first millennium A.D., itinerant preachers crisscrossed Europe warning that the end of the world was nigh. Hundreds of thousands of people took heed, joining religious cults and anti-governmental militias in preparation for the coming war between good and evil. (If this sounds familiar, it is proof only that history is cyclical.) During this heady time, Europe exploded in religious war, peasant revolts and sectarian strife, marked by the first large-scale massacres of Jews and gypsies, the first inklings of inquisitions and holy crusades. Norman Cohn, a masterful writer and interpreter, carefully explores this extraordinary period in European history in a book that bears rereading as our own millennium approaches its end. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.


"Compelling and original" (Bettany Hughes The Times)

"Important, original... Haunting and significant" (Times Literary Supplement)

"It is a piece of great originality and power... It deserves study and emulation" (Isaiah Berlin)

"Full of rich, fascinating scholarship... What a field he covers" (Hugh Trevor-Roper)

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Von Sebastian Good am 28. November 1999
Format: Taschenbuch
One of the coolest books we've read in a good while, Norman Cohn's book talks about 'revolutionary millenarians and mystical anarchists of the middle ages.'That is, nutcases. From the flagellants to naked wandering preachers to the disaffected masses who would march off to plunder Europe and the Holy Land in the name of the Cross, this book is chock full of instructive and highly amusing anecdotes about a staggering cross-section of millenial lunacy. Not just for fun and games, though -- his bibliography spans nearly a hundred pages and this is a classic historical work. []
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Von Ein Kunde am 14. August 1997
Format: Taschenbuch
When I first read the book, I began in the back--it's divided well so that it reads like small hilarious tales or longer, fascinating and riotous history. The tales are Monty Python-esque, especially because the best Monty Python humor is the use of straight-forward history. From the whacked out tales of Protestant reformation, utopian and distopian enclaves of cultish religious fanatics, to riveting tales of 'witchcraft and mysticism,' this isn't comedic fiction, it's unbelievable History! I love to read this book aloud to others, and that's my highest compliment
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Wir konnten Ihre Stimmabgabe leider nicht speichern. Bitte erneut versuchen
Format: Taschenbuch
A book for anyone who has read "The name of the rose" and found the strange groups and
sects that move in and out of the narrative as interesting as the story itself. The otherworldly inhabitants
of this book come alive as you read and the wonderful "logic" and inevitability of the period become
almost obvious. This book contains a unique combination of strict scholarly research and stories that
would defy all but the most imaginative of fiction writers.
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 26 Rezensionen
27 von 27 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
As ever, the millennium is just around the corner 30. August 2007
Von Antonio - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Cohn's "Pursuit of the Millennium" has aged well and nearing 50 years of age it is deservedly a classic. Its subjet might be considered by some to be esoteric: it deals with prophets from middle age Europe who led others to believe that the end of times was at hand, and that they had been chosen by God to purify the world in preparation for the Kingdom of the Last Days, and with pantheistic mystical anarchists who believed that they could do no evil because they had connected with their divine essences. In most cases these figures are virtual unknowns even for people who like history. The few that still turn up are Thomas Müntzer, the leader of the rebellious peasants who were exterminated in the Battle of Frankenhausen (a character in the historical fiction pastiche "Q" by Luther Blisset) and John of Leyden, the tailor who created a totalitarian kingdom of saints in Münster. For the revolutionary millennarians the tale is a bit repetitive, and it usually went like this: a former priest or a hermit with a violent disposition concludes, after meditating for a long time, that he is living at the end of times and that he is God/ he is a god/ he has been chosen by God or a god to lead the just and the good in a final, apocalyptic, war against Antichrist and his followers, to usher in the millennium of the saints announced by John the Divine, prior to the end of the world and the final reckoning. The hermit or defrocked priest finds some followers and eventually is able to take hold of a town or a castle, which he converts into a stronghold with the help of the rootless rabble. Then he proceeds to plunder from the rich (nobles and clergy) and to purge the unredeemed. Eventually the powers-that-be get their act together and dispatch an army of knights who, after a bloody fight are able to capture the prophet and his main followers, who usually are burnt or beheaded after enduring torture. It is peculiar that even thought they are always defeated and crushed, the sort of people who are drawn to this type of leader will rise up to follow them again and again.

Cohn's book tells the story in just the right detail. He shows that certain regions were particularly sensitive to the millennarian prophets. Many such arose in the Northwestern corner of Europe (Northeastern France, the Benelux countries, the Rhineland in Germany). He also shows that generally poor people have had rational aims: to use pressure in order to improve their lot by acquisition of certain rights. Only a minority has felt the attraction of millennarian revolutions, and these usually have been uprooted people without a settled role. Also, these revolutionary initiatives were able to succeed (even if for a short while) only in times of chaos or unrest (i.e., the Crusades, visitations of the plague or black death, economic crises, etc.). Usually the self-appointed prophets used the social disruption in order to further their cause and take advantage from the momentary weakness of defenders of the status quo.

Cohn is a sober commentator who shows that recent historians have sometimes ignored the evidence to further a political agenda. Thus, leftist historians sometimes refused to acknowledge some activities of the prophets whom they regarded as protorevolutionaries (such as their inclination to institutionalized promiscuity or their remarkably violent language), probably in order to maintain their status as predecessors of current "progressives".

An interesting conclusion from the reading of the book is that, contrary to what many think, ideas are not a neutral good to be chosen by informed customers in an efficient marketplace. Some ideas appeal to dark places in people's minds: these are dangerous ideas, and parents and teachers would do well to instruct their children, so that they do not succumb. One such idea is that "God" is in everything, and that when a person becomes aware of this he or she becomes entirely free and can follow his or her desires without any negative ethical implication. Another way of putting this is that nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so, as Hamlet said. This type of belief might lead a person to the most brutal behaviors without any perception that they had done ill. This is a very common opinion nowadays, and in fact both the millennarists and the mystical anarchists have their successors nowadays. Today, the center of millennarian agitation is surely the USA, were many people believe that the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse) is a play-by-play description of the end of the world and that they will live to see it happen. And many new age sects (including Scientology) appear to hold the belief that we can become gods and be free of conventional morality and ethics.

In his conclusion Cohn suggests that many radical movements of the XX century are in fact new versions of the old millennarian revolutionary heresies. There can be no doubt that this is the case: human motivations change little over time. What changes is the language in which they are articulated. In a religious era, the language and imagery were religious. in a godless age the language attempts to be scientific and logical. But underneath there beats the same old hope: the hope to see evil punished and evildoers destroyed, to be part of a chosen elite with a new understanding of the nature of reality, and an exhilarating vision of a better future through hardship and strife. We can all empathise with these feelings. Action movies, comic books, tragedies, country music and soap operas resonate for many of us because they take their inspiration from some of these elements. I only regret that Cohn did not expand the point, although other authors have done so, most notably Michel Burleigh, who in his recent two volume history on the clashes between politics and religion from the French Revolution to our days has shown that much of what passes for politics is in reality religion by another name, and how the most revolutionary creeds of the XX century were really millennarian sects.

And Cohn's perspective is so pertinent that it even explains the rise of Islamic fundamentalism tinged with visions of a holy war that will redeem the world and turn into the Umma, the community of the believers. The followers of fundamentalism have been the large masses of uprooted peasants without a clear role in a modernizing world, and their leaders have been intellectuals or semi-intellectuals who can understand how the world works but want no part of it, other than to redeem it in an apocalytic struggle. Their counterparts in other religions are very similar to them: people who want to find a meaning for lives that provide none, people who are sensitive to unfairness and who instinctively resonate with violence and retribution, people who yearn for zoroastrian visions of entirely distinct good and bad. As ever, for these people, the new millennium of peace and joy is just around the corner, although sadly it can only come about on mountains of corpses and through rivers of blood.
37 von 40 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
The Revolt of the Masses in the Middle Ages. 5. März 2001
Von New Age of Barbarism - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
The apocalyptic imagination has always exercised great control over the mind of the Western man - from bands of Jewish zealots in the time of Josephus to the masses of poor warriors in the Crusades to take the Holy Land for Christendom to the mutual hurling of the epithet "Antichrist" between Luther and the Pope, and it has been keenly expressed in the Biblical tradition within the Books of Daniel and Revelations. _The Pursuit of the Millennium_ takes a look at the mass movements and delusions that developed out of this tradition in the Middle Ages and the period following the Middle Ages, the Reformation. Norman Cohn shows how prejudices and hatreds among the poor (especially against the Jews, the clergy, and the wealthy) were used by mystical prophetae in conjunction with the apocalyptic tradition to give rise to mass movements which resulted in much mayhem and bloodshed. For example, the People's and Shepherd's Crusades in the Middle Ages were movements of mindless zealotry which ended in mass slaughter. Cohn examines various sects that developed out of these apocalyptic traditions around such figures as the Emperor Frederick, Joachim of Fiore, and various other individuals and imposters who sought to mobilize the masses of poor. In the later Middle Ages, this type of movement was exemplified among the flagellants, the Brethren of the Free Spirit, Taborites and followers of Thomas Muntzer, the militant wing of the Anabaptists, and later the Ranters in England. Often, these movements incorporated Joachimite speculations about a coming Age of the Spirit, mystical doctrines that made one was free to sin as one pleased (Free Spirit), and communistic ideals that involved belief in a Golden Age in which all men had lived as brothers with all things in common. Class struggle between rich and poor, or between poor and clergy (who were often contaminated by the sins of Avaritia and Luxuria) developed into all out wars. The belief that the apostles had lived in poverty and that God had intended all men to live in a communistic setting gave impetus to many individuals to reject church orthodoxy and form their own apocalyptic movements. These movements depended on the poor who held steadfastly to their often megalomanical leaders in their pursuit of messianic ideals and the coming of the millennium. Cohn does an excellent job of describing this process in detail and deals with much of the mysticism and myth surrounding it.
In the modern era, it is apparent that millenarian zeal has not died off at all. The communist revolutions in Russia and the rise of the Third Reich in Germany were both movements in the same line as these earlier mass movements in the Middle Ages. While they have shed much of the apocalyptic myth and become atheistic, the same principles were involved in their formation, and in the formation of similar movements that continue in the world today.
27 von 29 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Millennium Bugs 12. Oktober 2000
Von Toby Joyce - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
A friend recommended this to me as 'a great read' and I also recommend it to you for the same reason. It is rare that a work can be appreciated for its academic value, and for pure fascination. Who could not but be fascinated by the medieval flagellants, the Taborites, Joachim of Fiore, the Tafurs, the Anabaptists and the Ranters. Some groups awaited the returned of the Emperor Constantine, or Frederick Barbarossa, or even the Duke of Flanders, to herald the last days. Other preached, and practised, Free Love, and community of goods. Startingly, the Anabaptists of Munster (Germany) withstood a lengthy siege for their beliefs, while what was happening inside the walls of the city seemed to prefigure the regime of Stalin. Important to recall the limitations of medieval Catholicism, which drove many into fringe sects, and eventually helped spawn the Reformation. Not that the Protestant princes were any more sympathetic to the Prophets of the Poor. For an academic book, this is also fun to read, though its subject in places in quite grisly.
23 von 25 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Eeeeexxxxelllent, as Mr. Burns would say. 14. August 1997
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
When I first read the book, I began in the back--it's divided well so that it reads like small hilarious tales or longer, fascinating and riotous history. The tales are Monty Python-esque, especially because the best Monty Python humor is the use of straight-forward history. From the whacked out tales of Protestant reformation, utopian and distopian enclaves of cultish religious fanatics, to riveting tales of 'witchcraft and mysticism,' this isn't comedic fiction, it's unbelievable History! I love to read this book aloud to others, and that's my highest compliment
13 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
History and warning 30. November 2006
Von J. Michael - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
This is a brilliant and fascinating history of Christian millennial movements, cults and apocalyptically-motivated uprisings from earliest times up until the Reformation era. In the sheer bizarre freakishness of this tale of flagellants, messiahs, visionary madmen, heretical saints, reincarnated Jesuses, religious libertines, crazed hordes of rootless paupers, and genocidal prophets who sought to bring on the millennium in a sea of blood, this study is like a deformed sideshow mutant that both mesmerizes and disgusts you. However, it's more than just entertainment. I believe that it is a prophetic work.

The apocalyptic DNA strand was never eradicated from the human animal and will surely resurface in the Christian world when the conditions are right. Those conditions, among which are social dislocation, cultural deracination, political corruption, establishment-religion apathy and hypocrisy, have been rising to an extreme heat since the 1960s. Millions of people have been, and will continue to be, severed from traditional means of understanding the world and will find meaning by turning to the deviant and heterodox forms of Christianity that have proliferated in the past 30 years in America. The powerful leaders of these faith groups provide certainty, spirituality and carnal satisfaction with prophecies, visions, "miracles", divine revelations, new experiences via mind-altering practices, promises of earthly prosperity and a sense of belonging by exacerbating the hostility with "the world". Apocalyptic theology is an ever-present theme. The followers of these televangelist messiahs are peaceable enough now, but should their bellies ever be shrunken by an economic downturn- the last of the necessary conditions- we will see violent millenarian movements like nothing the world has ever known. If you're interested in what that kind of world may look like, read this book.
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