What will happen at the end of the world? Otto Friedrich, in this remarkable, original book, looks at times in the world’s history when for large numbers of people the world did literally come to an end. The forms of apocalypse were varied – natural disasters, military defeat, religious fanaticism – and so were the responses. Friedrich describes the sack of Rome, when civilization itself seemed about to vanish; the Albigensian crusade, when a culture was destroyed in the name of God and a relentless inquisition; the Black Death, when plague carried off one in every three people, and an indifference to good and evil that seemed to defy the very idea of God; the rise of the Anabaptists, who thought the end would be a deliverance; the Lisbon earthquake, a disaster that shattered the foundations of the Enlightenment and any comforting notions of a reasonable world; the Russian Revolution, when the end of the old order gave birth to the modern police state; and Auschwitz, an end of such horrible magnitude that even now it denies a moral universe. Published in 1982.

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