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

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The messianic messages delivered to Londoners by the self-styled prophet, Richard Brothers (1757-1824), 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' (1795) keyed into 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 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-284
Number of pages15
JournalHistory of European Ideas
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2008


  • Richard Brothers
  • Revealed Knowledge
  • Millenarian
  • Prophecy
  • Religious Politics
  • ‘Paddington Prophet’


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