The religious politics of prophecy: or, Richard Brothers's Revealed Knowledge confuted

Madden, Deborah (2008) The religious politics of prophecy: or, Richard Brothers's Revealed Knowledge confuted. History of European Ideas, 34 (3). pp. 270-284. ISSN 0191-6599

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Abstract

The messianic messages delivered to Londoners by the self-styled prophet, Richard Brothers, were regarded by many sceptical observers and pamphleteers as eccentric or, worse still, the embarrassing utterances of someone wishing to reprise the political turmoil of a by-gone era marred by religious ‘fanaticism’. This article shows the extent to which Brothers's messages, as set down in his Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and Times (1794–1795), were absolutely central to the religious politics and culture of the 1790s—or what one contemporary critic mockingly referred to as the ‘age of prophecy’. Brothers's prophecies came to the attention of the British government, which culminated in his arrest for treasonable practices in March 1795 when he became a cause célèbre, before being confined to an asylum for eleven years. He was deemed a criminal lunatic but, as this article seeks to demonstrate, his ‘prophetic imagination’ arose out of the same rich theological, political and cultural context that spurred ‘radicals’ like Tom Paine, whilst inspiring poets and artists such as William Blake. If the content of his prophecies were regarded by contemporary sceptics for having no validity, it remains true to say that Richard Brothers, as an educated gentleman and naval officer, dramatically altered 18th-century expectations and perceptions of what prophets were and the nature of prophecy itself.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion. Mythology. Rationalism
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
Depositing User: Deborah Madden
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2012 16:56
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2012 11:20
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/37222
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