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The French prophets : a cultural history of religious enthusiasm in post-toleration England (1689-1730)

University of East Anglia
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THESIS THE FRENCH PROPHETS A Cultural History of Religious Enthusiasm in Post- Toleration England (1689-1730) by Mr Lionel Patrice Fabien Laborie Ph.D. thesis University of East Anglia School of History March 2010 Word count: 110,945 ©This copy of the thesis has been supplied on condition that anyone who consults it is understood to recognise that its copyright rests with the author and that no quotation from the thesis, nor any information derived therefrom, may be published without the author's prior, written consent. Abstract The story of the French Prophets has gone down as one of the greatest examples of religious enthusiasm in English religious history. It began in 1706 with the arrival in London of three inspired Camisards from Southern France and ended with the foundation of the Shakers in 1747. These Prophets claimed to be possessed by the Holy Spirit and announced the end of the world and Christ’s Second Coming to the local Huguenot community, but rapidly attracted a majority of English speaking followers. Their ecstatic trances and alleged supernatural powers caused a great controversy over the nature of enthusiasm in the ‘Age of Reason’. This thesis examines the significance of enthusiasm in the context of the Toleration Act of 1689 through the particular case of the French Prophets. It argues that enthusiasm meant much more than religious fanaticism in the eighteenth century and that it should be viewed in opposition to the Enlightenment. It takes an thematic approach to enthusiasm in order to reflect the multiple impacts the Prophets had on eighteenth-century England, with each chapter addressing the issue from a different perspective. Chapter one retraces their origins from Languedoc and covers the persecution and exodus of the Huguenots after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and their arrival in England. The second chapter looks at the Camisards’ belief system and how they

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