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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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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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.

19 of 19 people found this review 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.

10 of 10 people found this review 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.

7 of 8 people found this review 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 of 2 people found this review 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.

14 of 20 people found this review 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.

1 of 1 people found this review 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 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Joshua
  • 05-11-2013

Listener Beware

These lectures are excellent source of knowledge about the nature religion and how religion can become hysteria. However, while Professor Ruiz is wonderfully knowledgeable he can at times be difficult to understand because of his accent. It took me a little bit time to get used to his pronunciation and speech pattern. But once I was accustom it was smooth sailing.

8 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-03-2018

Great!

Interesting subject matter delivered by a passionate and knowledgeable narrator. Will listen to it again.

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  • Meg
  • 28-11-2017

Very informative and enjoyable

First, this was an enjoyable listen-- the lecturer has a pleasant speaking voice. Secondly, I don't have an extensive background knowledge of European history around the middle ages, or of older theological institutions, etc. This series goes in-depth for topics like these that are necessary to understand the subject material. The lecturer was able to flesh out the situations while also not letting the subject matter get too dry.

Overall I definitely recommend purchasing this course.

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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.

2 of 2 people found this review 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!

1 of 1 people found this review 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 of 4 people found this review helpful

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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.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful