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Publisher's Summary

Western civilization is closely associated with reason and science, and with exceptional accomplishments in art, architecture, music, and literature.Yet it has also been characterized by widespread belief in the supernatural and the irrational - with mystics who have visions of the divine and entire movements of people who wait in fervent anticipation of the apocalypse.
Moreover, Western culture has also been the setting for repeated acts of barbaric reaction to those beliefs, including persecutions of certain groups, such as Jews, or of people accused as heretics and witches.
This series of 24 intriguing lectures explores the concept of what has been called the "terror of history," a deeply held ancient belief that human beings live constantly on the edge of doom- a doom against which we must protect ourselves, sometimes by scapegoating an "other" whom we blame for this catastrophic plight.
The lectures explore this belief through a study of mysticism, heresy, apocalyptic movements, and the witch-hunting craze that bloomed in Europe from 1000 to 1700. You'll examine sources you may be unfamiliar with, learn to think in new ways, and gain a fresh perspective on how social, economic, political, and religious climates - especially during times of change and stress - exert tremendous influence on the prevalence of irrational attitudes and persecutions.
©2002 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2002 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Christina on 10-07-13

For those who wonder why

I picked up this lecture because of curiosity over witch burnings and religious inquisitions. How did people enact such cruel tortures upon others and what does that say about the human species?

Professor Teo does an amazing job recreating an image of life in the Middle Ages to explain the context of the events in history. I was fascinated by the rich detail of the time period and of his description of people's lives, culture, fears and beliefs.

In addition, Professor Teo is such an interesting, expressive speaker, that it was easy to get immersed in his lectures. I encourage history fans and anyone who has a curiosity about the time period to take a listen.

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14 of 14 people found this review helpful


By Allyson B. Wilson on 07-31-14

What's in a name

Any additional comments?

"The Terror of History" a haunting title that makes more sense after finishing the lectures. The lectures are interesting and have a personal feel, I did not find Ruiz's accent a distraction, as some comments warned. One of the most memorable TGC lectures.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By mr on 12-06-14

At best, okay.

You get this book for an interesting sensational story and you barely get it. A lot on mystiques, this could had been summarised in one lecture.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful


By Frank on 09-21-14

Pompous and empty

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

The topic is interesting but the professor killed it. There is no salvaging this one. To be fair, I stopped listening after the Mysticism section so maybe it gets better, but I couldn't go on anymore.

Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

Maybe, the course titles are always intriguing but but so far I've heard only two duds. It seems like they deliver pretty dumbed-down stuff, based on what I've listened to so far.

Would you be willing to try another one of Professor Teofilo F. Ruiz’s performances?

No way

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Terror of History: Mystics, Heretics, and Witches in the Western Tradition?

Too much blather and empty new-agey stuff. I wanted more specifics, history and real info.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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