The History of Fear: Frank Furedi

The History of Fear

Frank Furedi

We are less familiar with pain and suffering than our ancestors, yet new forms of fear play an ever-expanding role in 21st century life. Sociologist Frank Furedi asks why.

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    Frank Furedi

About the Course

From terror attacks to paedophilia, our era is in thrall to fear. Throughout history, the fears of a society have defined the people who live in it. In this course, Professor Frank Furedi confronts the causes of our anxieties and uncovers what they say about the way we live now. Can we combat the culture of fear?

By the end of the course, you will have learned:

  • why the globalised world has become paralysed by fear
  • what the cultural script we use to explain our fears says about our society
  • how cultures managed to deal with atrocities such as Hiroshima, and why ours would fail
  • why fear arises and how it can be combatted
  • the reasons behind our fascination with the apocalypse.


As part of the course there are in-video quiz questions to consolidate your learning, discussion boards to have your say and suggested further readings set by Professor Furedi to stimulate a deeper exploration of the topic.

IAI Academy courses are designed to be challenging but accessible to the interested student. No specialist knowledge is required.

About the Instructor

  • Frank Furedi

    Frank Furedi is a emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent. Since the late 1990s, he has been widely cited about his views on why Western societies find it so difficult to engage with risk and uncertainty. His book Invitation to Terror: expanding the empire of the unknown explores the way in which the threat of terrorism has become amplified through the ascendancy of precautionary thinking.

Course Syllabus

  • Part One: A Brief History of Fear
    How have we arrived in an age of fear? Can we accurately assess the dangers we face?
  • Part Two: Citizens of Fear
    From witchcraft to nuclear holocaust, how do fears escalate into social panic?
  • Part Three: Inner States
    Why are uncertainties – from strangers to relationships – internalised as fear?

Suggested Further Readings

A selection of further readings has been suggested by Professor Furedi as part of this course. 

Explore Further

Our editors have brought together a range of content from across which explore the ideas in this course.