Research Project


Millennialism from Jesus to the Peace of God (33-1033)

Prof. Dr. Richard Landes

Boston University, Department of History
Research stay: January – December 2011

Lectures at the IKGF:

  • Active vs. Passive Millennialism at the Approach of the Apocalyptic Year 1000: Pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Peace of God, Tuesday lecture, February 1, 2011.
  • Always wrong: Explaining failed Apocalyptic Prophecies. Again and Again, Annual Conference 2011

Millennialism from Jesus to the Peace of God (33-1033)

During my time at the consortium, I plan to finish a book I began 15 years ago and suspended to work on the book that Oxford University Press will publish this July. It’s provisional title is: While God Tarried: Millennialism from Jesus to the Peace of God (33-1033). I have already completed the first nine chapters and have about four remaining ones, one on the Carolingians, two on the approach of the year 1000, and a concluding one on the impact of the Peace of God on the developments of the 11th century.

These chapters focus on the issue of how believers in a coming apocalyptic date (in the case of these final chapters, 6000 annus mundi (=801 AD) and 1000 and 1033 AD), respond either passively or actively. The active variant (which produced the Carolingian empire and the Peace of God) sets in motions important social and political dynamics. The former represents what I call “hierarchical (or imperial)” millennialism, while the latter represents what I call “demotic (or egalitarian)” millennialism.

Ironically, although one might assume the most obvious and presumably the most effective results would come from the top-down imperial model, in fact the most profound and enduring results came from the bottom-up demotic model. This is true, because of the kind of social movements set in motion by demotic millennialism and the way that believers handle the inevitable disappointment of their expectations. The results, laid out in my final chapter, “The Pieces of God” will trace the Peace of God’s impact on the three great developments of the 11th century: the Church Reform, the Commune movement, and the Crusades.

During my year at the consortium, I hope to learn from members of the consortium about how other forms of prognostication about the future and attitudes towards how to prepare for anticipated developments have shaped other cultural responses.

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