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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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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.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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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.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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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.<br/>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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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
  • Mechanicsburg, PA, United States
  • 08-17-13

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.

12 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Joshua
  • ASBURY, NJ, United States
  • 11-05-13

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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Good but spoiled by other lectures being better.

It was informative and I learned from it. I'm glad I stuck with it. The Great Courses sets high expectations so comparitively this one wasn't as easy and fun as most. I think most people hungry to learn will feel like I do and benefit from it but find it hard to articulate just why it doesn't rate up there with the best. Give it a chance and you will be glad you did.

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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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Good listen!

I thoroughly enjoyed these lectures. I listened to the course at work – it took me roughly a week to go through it – so I wasn't fully focusing all the time, or listening with the end goal of taking a test or writing a paper on the topic. Nevertheless I was able to learn a lot of insightful facts about mystics, heretics, witches, and how their persecution was used as an escape from the terror of histoy. The professor is clearly very passionate and educated on the topic, and a great speaker.

I originally purchased this course with the intent to learn more about witchcraft in the medieval age from a historical perspective, and I certainly got more than I signed up for, but in a positive way. Christianity was even more prevalent in the discussion than I expected, after all the lectures are based on historical evidence rather than a romanticised view of witches and pagans that is often held in the present time.

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I really wanted to like this

I tried to get thru this multiple times. It seemed like such a fascinating subject, but I didn't get past the fourth lesson. Professor Teofilo Ruiz says things in paragraphs that could be said in one sentence and takes a fascinating subject and puts me to sleep.

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  • mr
  • 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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Frank
  • 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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Teleica K.
  • 04-05-16

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!

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  • bush
  • 02-03-16

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 1 people found this review helpful