Richard Allen Landes is an American historian and author, specializing in Millennialism, the belief that at some point in the future, this world riddled with injustice and evil will be transformed into heaven on earth. He was a Professor of Medieval History in the Department of History at Boston University. Landes was the director of the now quiescent Center for Millennial Studies (1995-2004).
His work focuses on the role of religion in shaping and transforming the relationships between elites and commoners in various cultures. He has coined the expression "demotic religiosity," an orientation that believes in 1) equality before the law, 2) dignity of manual labor, 3) access to sacred texts and divinity for all believers, 4) iconoclasm, and 5) moral integrity over social honor. Trained as a medievalist, his early work focused on the period around 1000 CE, a moment, in his opinion, of both cultural mutation (origins of the modern West), and intense apocalyptic and millennial expectations.
From 1995-2004, he directed the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University which held annual conferences and published an online journal, Journal of Millennial Studies. This involvement refocused his work on millennialism the world over and in different time periods, and has resulted in the Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements, (Berkshire Reference Works; Routledge, NY, 2000); Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience (Oxford U. Press, 2011), and The Paranoid Apocalypse: A Hundred-Year Retrospective on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (NYU Press, 2011).
His work on the apocalyptic currents that built up during the approach to 2000 has led him to focus on Global Jihad as a) an apocalyptic millennial movement; and b) a new religious movement whose relationship to the internet may parallel that of Protestantism to printing. At the same time, studying the dynamics of millennialism has turned his attention to the role of communications technology in shaping a culture, and on the controversial issue of “honor-shame” cultures and their relationship to modernity.
In addition to his courses on medieval history, he offered courses on
- Europe and the Millennium,
- Communications Revolutions from Language to Cyberspace
- Honor-shame culture Middle Ages, Modern East
- Biblical origins of the Democracy.
In 2005 he launched a media-oversight project called The Second Draft in order to look at what the news media calls their “first draft of history.” There he first published a series of documentaries, According to Palestinian Sources, about the Muhammad al Durah Affair, an episode of "fake news" that he considers the first post-modern blood libel, the first successful blood libel in the West since the Holocaust:
Since January 2005 he has been blogging at The Augean Stables, a name chosen to describe the current condition of the Mainstream News Media (MSNM) in the West.
As a result of this work on the MSNM, he has come to understand the role of cognitive warfare in the campaign of apocalyptic Jihad against the West in the 21st century, and the abysmal record of the West in defending itself in this critical theater of War. He plans a book addressing these issues initially entitled They’re so Smart ‘cause We’re so Stupid: A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century, but now published under the title: Can "The Whole World" Be Wrong: Lethal Journalism, Antisemitism, and Global Jihad.
n 2011, he is a fellow at the International Consortium on Research in the Humanities at Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany. There he resumed work on the study with which his medieval work first began, the history of the “sabbatical millennium” with its expectation of the messianic kingdom in the year 6000 from the creation of the world: While God Tarried: Disappointed Millennialism from Jesus to the Peace of God, 33-1033.