Cover: Apocalypses: Prophecies, Cults, and Millennial Beliefs through the Ages, from Harvard University PressCover: Apocalypses in PAPERBACK


Prophecies, Cults, and Millennial Beliefs through the Ages

Add to Cart

Product Details


$30.00 • £24.95 • €27.00

ISBN 9780674003958

Publication Date: 11/01/2000


302 pages

United States and its dependencies only

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, The New York Times Book Review

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.The Economist

[A] characteristically elegant essay.—Anthony Grafton, The New Republic

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, The Boston Phoenix

An erudite and witty account of millennial beliefs through the ages… [Apocalypses] 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 Jerusalem Post

[A] synoptic histor[y] of the subject treated with the intellectual seriousness it deserves.—Martin Malia, The Los Angeles Times

[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, Los Angeles Weekly

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, The Providence Journal-Bulletin

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, The Sciences

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, Sixteenth Century Journal

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, The Times of Arcadiana

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, Booklist

Weber is a terrific writer for an academic, coining fun new words such as ‘billennium’ for the year 2000 and ‘the enserfed’ for the heathen masses.Kirkus Reviews

Writing with curiosity and empathy about such varied topics as the eschatological fallout from Halley’s comet and Y2K survivalism, Weber turns up a few intriguing facts… Weber fittingly describes his work as a travel book, recording a journey through the ages… [G]ifted is the writer who can nimbly span the distant cultural poles of Nostradamus and Bill Gates.Publishers Weekly

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Marking the 75th Anniversary of Independence from British Rule

August 14 and August 15 mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of independence from British rule for Pakistan and India, respectively. Inextricably linked to the birth of these two South Asian nations is the 1947 Partition of the subcontinent that tragically accompanied the end of British colonialism.