The Terribles espoirs of 1000
and the Tacit Fears of 2000
The approach of 2000 proved fairly unfriendly to those historians who saw apocalyptic themes at work in the culture of the period around 1000. Indeed, in France, the modern culture that first produced the reading of 1000 as a moment of intense apocalyptic expectation produced a spate of books and articles by French historians that either explicitly or implicitly rejected the thesis outright, 1 and two of those books explicitly sought to reject any suggestion that significant apocalyptic activities marked the turn of the first Christian millennium. One of them, Sylvain Gouguenheim's The False Terrors of the Year 1000: Expectation of the End of the World or Deepening of the Faith? represented a high point in historiographical polemic: an entire book dedicated to dismissing, often at the cost of misrepresenting, the arguments of other historians. 2 Beyond this Weld of active opposition, one found, at least in French scholarship, a broad consensus. Books on the period, or on major figures from the period, either failed to even mention the issue or cited Gouguenheim as a “good summary” of the argument. 3 One might say that the profession, at least the most vocal representatives of the profession, came down squarely on the side of the positivists of the late nineteenth century against the Romantics of the mid–nineteenth century. 4
For a variety of reasons, this volume, which presents papers delivered at a conference at the end of 1996, regrettably did not appear in time to contribute to this debate. Thus, any historians who suspected, almost instinctively, that the “anti-Terrors” position was seriously overstated and somewhat obtuse were nonetheless not in a position to contest it, because they lacked the proper documentation. Perhaps, though, that was for the best. Perhaps these essays would have made little difference in the years immediately preceding 2000
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Publication information: Book title: The Apocalyptic Year 1000: Religious Expectation and Social Change, 950-1050. Contributors: Richard Landes - Editor, Andrew Gow - Editor, David C. Van Meter - Editor. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 3.
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