Enlightening enthusiasm

Prophecy and religious experience in early eighteenth-century England

By Lionel Laborie

Enlightening enthusiasm


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8988-6
  • Pages: 360
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: October 2015
  • BIC Category: Early Modern History, Religion, History, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Humanities / History of religion, History of religion, History & Archaeology, European history, Humanities / Early modern history: c 1450/1500 to c 1700, c 1500 onwards to present day, RELIGION / History, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain


In the early modern period, the term 'enthusiasm' was a smear word used to discredit the dissenters of the radical Reformation as dangerous religious fanatics. In England, the term gained prominence from the Civil War period and throughout the eighteenth century. Anglican ministers and the proponents of the Enlightenment used it more widely against Paracelsian chemists, experimental philosophers, religious dissenters and divines, astrologers or anyone claiming superior knowledge. But who exactly were these enthusiasts? What did they believe in and what impact did they have on their contemporaries? This book concentrates on the notorious case of the French Prophets as the epitome of religious enthusiasm in early Enlightenment England. Based on new archival research, it retraces the formation, development and evolution of their movement and sheds new light on key contemporary issues such as millenarianism, censorship and the press, blasphemy, dissent and toleration, and madness.


'This original and ground-breaking book is a major reassessment of prophetic religious experience in eighteenth century Britain. The author has uncovered a dazzling array of sources to show the importance of prophecy in religious experience in the period. It will be essential reading for all scholars of the Enlightenment.'
Professor William Gibson, Oxford Brookes University

'A meticulous study, this impressive works draws on a range of sources now scattered across Europe and North America to make a timely and important contribution to several key debates - notably the relationship between religious enthusiasm and the early English Enlightenment. Students of the early eighteenth century should engage with it.'
Ariel Hessayon, Goldsmiths, University of London

'.a highly rewarding book.'
Michael Hunter, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK, European History Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 1

'Enlightening Enthusiasm offers an important contribution to early eighteenth-century English history and is of importance to those researching Quakerism, particularly ecstatic behaviour in the 1700s. By comparing and contrasting the enthusiasm of the French Prophets with other religious dissenters, movements and sects, Laborie has shaped an engaging full study on enthusiasm and places the French Prophets in their rightful place in early modern English history.'
Erica Canela, University of Birmingham, Quaker Studies, Spring 2019


1 The origins the French Prophets
2 From the Désert to the New Jerusalem
3 The final Reformation
4 Going public
5 Enthusiasm, blasphemy and toleration
6 Medicalising enthusiasm


Lionel Laborie is Assistant Professor in Early Modern History at Leiden University

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