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Heaven on EarthThe Varieties of the Millennial Experience$
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Richard Landes

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199753598

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199753598.001.0001

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Bats and Turkeys

Bats and Turkeys

Historians and Recovering the Millennial Past

(p.62) 3 Bats and Turkeys
Heaven on Earth

Richard Landes

Oxford University Press

This chapter analyzes the dilemma of social scientists dealing with apocalyptic phenomena: anthropologists can study current movements; historians can see the long-term effects, but have difficulty reconstructing the early period from a documention, composed and preserved by scribes who are hostile to the original (wrong) beliefs. The chapter presents an analogy to icebergs, in which the oral apocalyptic discourse dominated the public sphere even as it left only a tiny trace in the texts. Thus, historians who assume the relatively small imprint of apocalyptic beliefs and activities are so much flotsam and jetsam of a ship Augustine, the great horned owl, sank over 1600 years ago, may well sink their historiographical ships on the iceberg of apocalyptic discourse that lies below the surface of the texts.

Keywords:   historiography, turkeys, bats, methodology, consensus of silence, oral discourse, deconstruction, Emperor's New Clothes

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