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The Pursuit Of The Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages Paperback – 3 Jun 1993


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Product details

  • Paperback: 414 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New Ed edition (3 Jun 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712656642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712656641
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 3.1 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 188,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"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)

Book Description

'Great learning and an admirably lively style... Professor Cohn's work throws a flood of light into unexplored corners... A most stimulating book' Christopher Hill

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By E N Cuentro on 11 Jan 2008
Format: Paperback
I have a special place in my heart for books which combine the utmost intellectual rigour in their research and method, with the most off the wall subject matter imaginable. Perhaps it is the contrast between form and content, perhaps it is the breadth and depth of the conclusions reached by the microscopic examination of insanity.

Whatever the reason, Pursuit of the Millenium is brilliant example of the kind. I suppose you can tell that a book has reached a certain stature when it is referenced in later classics, and that the book must be especially wonderful of its kind if it attains this status despite pertaining largely to the arcane matter of medieval religious sectarianism. If this is true, then the reference to Cohn's opus in On Chesil Beech by Ian McEwan (in which principle male character is reading the book) is some sort of validation - especially given McEwan's predilection for using his novels to drop unsubtle hints about the sort of activities he considers culturally worthwhile.

The book is a succession of remarkable stories, interlaced with the development of the ideas which informed each instance of revolutionary eschatology. Similar motifs and patterns crop up again and again with such surprising reguality over periods of centuries that it is hard not to think that the commonalities must point to some sort of underlying human or structural bias. What it is though, is hard to say. Because it deals with revolutionary movements in the dark ages, it is also a fascinating comparative text for anyone interested in the revolutionary and social movements of the recent past - though Cohn does arguably lay that on a little thick at times.

No real prior knowledge of the subject is necessary to read the book, though I personally needed to make occasional recourse to Wikipedia to remind me of what some theological terms mean.

This, in case you haven't noticed, is a glowing review. Read this book!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By B. Blatt on 10 Oct 2007
Format: Paperback
Many would not expect a book on medieval religion to be 'unputdownable', but this really is a riveting read. Professor Cohn introduces us to a lost world of heretics and heroes, and the revolutions and massacres they inspired. Chillingly the crazed theologies he describes are far from dead; some have mutated into secular versions like Nazism and Communism, some appear to have been rediscovered by modern religious extremists; David Koresh would not be out of place in this book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By JaneQNorth on 12 Jan 2011
Format: Paperback
It is all to rare to find a book so rich in detail and scholarship which is an readable as a first-rate novel. In this book Professor Cohn treated us to a glimpse of period and a habit of thought so distant and alien to our own and manages to make it not only coherent but comprehensible.

The breadth of detail, the enormous number of sources referenced and the humanity with which he delves into the thoughts and concerns of these long-dead men and women of faith all combine to make one of the best books I have ever read.

As soon as I had finished it, I went out and bought every other book by the writer I could find.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Basileus on 26 Dec 2009
Format: Paperback
"The pursuit of the Millennium" tells the story of a number of sectarian movements between the 13th and 16th century in Northwest Europe that have been inspired, organised and justified by apocalyptic prophesies. Although the topic seems obscure at face value, its reach is far beyond the scope of this book. "Millennium" has been a real eye-opener for me regarding the timeless search for divinely inspired social justice in preparation of the "end of times", and the inevitable destructive forces accompanying its practical implementation.

The sectarian movements that are addressed in this book are not only the Brethern of the Free Spirit, Flagellants, Utraquists and Anabaptists, who still exist today in one form or another, but also more obscure local, shortlived sects led by charismatic, zealous maniacs. However, the interesting parts of "Milennium" for me are the history and interpretations of the apocalyptic prophecies and the explanations why specific sects mushroomed when and where they did.

With the Christian prophesies as the cultural framework, Cohn's economic and social explanations for the rise (and fall) of these sects are utterly convincing. The picture Cohn paints of late Medieval Europe is one of economic insecurity, societies in rapid transition, political disenfranchisement, disease and natural disasters, creating a rich soil for religiously inspired revolutionary movements. It turns out to be not that different from our present-day world.

The current global resurgence of religiousness in general and violent sectarianism more specifically, is a logical consequence of the power of apocalyptic prophesies and abovementioned developments in an increasingly complex and insecure world. As such "Millennium" is in my opinion a mirror of our times and an apocalyptic prophesy of what is to come this century.
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Format: Paperback
Quite frankly one of the best books I have ever read. Engagingly written, fantastically researched and absolutely bonkers. A must read.
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