Missionaries of the Millennium: Israelite Preachers in the English-Speaking World, 1823–1863



This article recovers the global history of the English millennial religion of Southcottianism. After Joanna Southcott died in 1814, leaving thousands of English followers still expecting the millennium that she prophesied, elements of her movement generated further prophets and a dynamic missionary division known as “Israelite Preachers.” From the 1820s onwards, these preachers took Southcott's ideas and new doctrines developed by her successor, John Wroe, throughout the British Isles, then the English-speaking world, most notably Australia and North America. Drawing mission approaches (and recruits) from revivalist dissent, Israelite preachers forged first a Britain-wide sect, then a global movement which followed the British settler diaspora and competed with rival American millennialisms. The spread of Southcottianism is a forgotten episode in the story of nineteenth-century British colonial missions, and an argument for examining millennial movements beside more mainstream Christianity.