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The Terror of History: Mystics, Heretics, and Witches in the Western Tradition

Narrated by: Teofilo F. Ruiz
Length: 12 hrs and 24 mins
Categories: History, Europe
3.2 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

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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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2002 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2002 The Great Courses

What listeners say about The Terror of History: Mystics, Heretics, and Witches in the Western Tradition

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  • Christina
  • 07-10-2013

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.

24 people found this helpful

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  • Allyson B. Wilson
  • 31-07-2014

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.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Earth Lover
  • 15-07-2018

Lightweight Intro to a Complicated Topic

Professor Ruiz spends way too much time telling us that things are important, or difficult, or how much we really need to know them - then scants the actual content. Case in point - the lecture on Jewish Mysticism. He actually tells us twice that he knows this is boring material. Thanks, Prof! Jewish Mysticism is not boring - what's boring is a lecturer who takes 8-10 minutes to get to the content of a 30-minute session. For a Great Courses release, this is distinctly lightweight. Much better audiobook about this material - Michael Bailey's Magic and Superstition in Europe.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Pamela
  • 13-07-2013

Great Courses Are wonderful

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This is not the first course that I have taken from Great Courses. The company provides almost effortless learning in many fields.
This course is one that I will recommend because the content points to history's treatment of people who dare to think differently than society's norm.

What did you like best about this story?

The professor likes his materials and this came through his treatment of bias through history.

What does Professor Teofilo F. Ruiz bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

A wonderful voice and teaching style.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

No.This is not your usual audiobook.

Any additional comments?

This course is buffet of viewpoints.Easy to follow without any prior knowledge of the subject, the course gives you a chance to sit in on meaty classes to which you might not otherwise get exposed.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Lillian
  • 01-06-2017

Based on primary source material

This is so informative and based on historical material rather than fluff and conjecture. Also very entertaining in pace and presence

2 people found this helpful

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  • Elizabeth
  • 17-08-2013

Good but not what I expected

This was the first of the Great Courses that I've listened too and I've started a second so overall I like the addition of the series to Audible. Having said that, this was a little disappointing. The professor obviously knows his stuff and was able relate the concepts to current life as much as possible. What was disappointing was all the context he provided. I absolutely agree that you need to understand the political, economic and cultural surroundings to properly place mystics, heretics and witches. Unfortunately, I often felt he spent more time on the context then the actual subject. I learned a great deal about the power of the religion-government partnership, about how the middle class developed and even the violence of the times. While interesting it wasn't what I expected.

My three-star rating is not about the quality of the lectures themselves but more about how the content did not fit the title as I expected. Perhaps that was my misunderstanding and others will feel the title matches perfectly.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Olli Nordling
  • 11-10-2019

The best Great Courses course thus far

A very interesting and well presented look into the terror of history and the ways in which people try to cope in an uncertain and unexplainable universe. Some people have criticized the presentation (the lecturer is not a native English speaker) but it really was easy to understand everything. Also the whole course was presented passionately and in an very captivating way. As a historian myself, I wholeheartedly recommend this course. Great stuff.

1 person found this helpful

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  • TinkerTaylor
  • 24-06-2019

not what I expected

this lecture starts out with a lot of chapters about the church and the mystics, with some excursions to the Jewish faith. I am alright with a good basis for information, but this is too much. By the time we got to alchemy and witchcraft the whole tale had lost my interest completely. Regret buying it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Rev. P. R. Miller
  • 30-11-2018

So you want to reinforce your bias? Not learn?

Rubbish. TLDR version: check Thomas Madden's section of the Modern Scholar series instead for a better analysis. The professor/narrator is dedicated to looking at the medieval/renaissance world through the lens of power disparity and politics, ignoring the religious implications entirely and seeing everything as a battle between proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The world at this point was more focused on maintaining unity and concerned with truth; not personal liberty. The narrator might as well attack Charles V for not instituting a modern democracy! Of course the "other" was the victim; religious tolerance was not a thing in this time. This is not a history lecture that will help you understand what the people were likely thinking. This is a history lecture to emphasize that the medievals were terrible people compared to us. In other words, the worst kind of rubbish history lecturing. I'm very dismayed. I fully recommend the Modern Scholar series instead. Tom Madden does a much better job without nearly as much modern bias and criticism. These "Great Courses" have been a real let-down.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Katherine
  • 04-10-2016

Loved the topic

Very interesting ideas presented. I wish it was longer. I want to hear more about the feudal system in the Middle Ages. I'll have to look into that topic in the future. The guy's voice is kind of grating at times.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Teleica K.
  • 05-04-2016

History of Terror review T Kirkland

This book was great Professor Ruiz is so well informed and interesting to listen to, his accent was sometimes difficult to understand but that didn't stop the book from being a great listen. I really feel like I've learned something!

2 people found this helpful

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  • mr
  • 06-12-2014

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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Guðrún Pétursdóttir
  • 16-01-2019

Excellent series of lecturers

Not what I expected but so much better as someone who is constantly trying to expand my knowledge this is perfect, I even used information from this today in class as a way to explain a point. Dr. Ruiz is on point and knows his stuff. Did I understand everything?No Did I enjoy it? Yes Will I listen to it again? Definitely

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  • Anonymous User
  • 24-10-2018

A very nice introductory lectures

This set is very nice introductory level lectures but lacks depth. Pick this up only if you are completely unfamiliar with the topic.

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  • bush
  • 03-02-2016

Slow start but stick with it.

I struggled a bit at the beginning with this whilst the background / context was being explained but the second half of the series is excellent. The Prof seems like a nice chap too. It was a bit like listening to a really long post match interview with Everton manager Roberto Martinez.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Frank
  • 21-09-2014

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.

1 person found this helpful