Apocalypse Now and Then

Frank Kermode

  • The Second Coming: Popular Millenarianism 1780-1850 by J.F.C. Harrison
    Routledge, 277 pp, £9.95

Thanks to the work of Norman Cohn, Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm, Keith Thomas and others, we have, over the past few years, acquired a lot of information about millenarianism as a social and historical force. The belief that the end is nigh, or that a new series of times is about to begin, is very ancient, but it is also modern. It is, moreover, a belief upon which people are liable to act, often with disastrous consequences to themselves and others. Persistent, dangerous as well as very interesting, it is a faith that invites more seductively than most the attention of the historian, and Professor Harrison, noting some very peculiar manifestations of it in the period of the Napoleonic wars and the succeeding years, has found himself a very good subject.

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