On three successive mornings in February 1652, God spoke to a London tailor by the name of John Reeve. Consequently he and his cousin Lodowicke Muggleton believed that they were the Last Two Witnesses prophesied in the Book of Revelation. Over the next six years the pair attracted a small but dedicated band of followers that, following the death of Reeve, became known as the Muggletonians. In this lively and engaging history, the origins of the sect during the religious turmoil and freedoms of the 1650s are described in detail. Their unique theology, beliefs and practices are described and traced throughout the changing circumstances of the centuries. Yet the book offers much more than a history of another puritan sect, for unlike many of their contemporaries, the Muggletonians persisted until the latter years of the twentieth century. Moreover, they preserved a comprehensive archive, rescued from the Blitz by a Kent farmer who transported the papers in empty apple boxes on his way back from market. Discovered by E.P. Thompson in 1974, this archive paints a vivid picture of the Muggletonians from their earliest days until the death of their last member in 1979. By following the history of the Muggletonians from the heady post-civil war days through to the 1970s, this work offers a unique perspective on radical Christian belief and practice, and how it adapted to the changing world around it. More than this, however, it tells the fascinating story of how a small religious group, which eschewed active proselytising and believed in the mortality of the soul, managed to overcome persecution and obscurity, to survive for 320 years.
'This is the astonishing story of a small sect with a big history written out of a rich and constantly startling archive. Lamont tells the story with huge engagement and with detached passion.' John Morrill, University of Cambridge '… a fascinating study of a group of bizarrely remarkable people, which manages both to make perfect sense of them and to convey the excitement of the business of research.' Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol 'This is a splendid and exceptional work - vibrant, clever and very acute. It opens up the Muggletonian archive and the successive and dynamic religious experience of many individuals in a dramatic and powerful manner. Lamont brings to this endeavour all of his considerable historical understanding: this is a weighty and serious work, but one that is accessible to non-experts. It will certainly be required reading for any historian interested in the religious experience and consequences of the English Revolution. Written in an engaging, learned but crystal clear prose, it is also a very powerful insight into the difficult business of engaging with the sometimes elusive experience of past religion. It is a deeply humble work concerned above all to allow the voices from the past to speak in their own idioms unhindered by jargon or hermeneutic method.' Justin Champion Royal Holloway, University of London ’William Lamont's impeccably researched and lively account may well have flouted his subjects's wishes, but the result has extended the memory of the extraordinary tenacious spiritual hold of Lodowick Muggleton.’ The Times Literary Supplement ’In this definitive study of one of the Protestant sects that emerged in the 1650s, William Lamont has written not only an absorbing piece of history but, more significantly, a book on how to do history.’ Journal of Ecclesiastical History ’This remarkable and delightful book traces the continuous history of the Muggletonian sect from its mid-seventeenth-century origins to 1979
Contents: Introduction: the archive discovered; 'Lodowick Muggleton was also included': 1652-58; 'Great Muggleton' declares the truth: 1658-61; The prophet of letters: 1661-98; Witnesses against the beast: 1698-1837; The Victorian crisis: 1837-1901; Last days: 1901-79; Conclusion: Muggletonians - the proper historical context?; Bibliography; Index.