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The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America / Edition 1

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Overview

Written by distinguished historians with the force of a novel, this book reconstructs the web of religious ecstacy, greed, and seduction within the cult of the Prophet Matthias in New York in 1834 and captures the heated atmosphere of the religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening. Illustrations.

Written by distinguished historians with the force of a novel, this book reconstructs the web of religious ecstacy, greed, and seduction within the cult of the Prophet Matthias in New York in 1834 and captures the heated atmosphere of the religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening. Illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In the 1830s in New York, Robert Matthews proclaimed himself to be the prophet Matthias. He became the center of a communal, patriarchal cult, in which his fanatical fervor captivated many respectable people. Economic and sexual surrender were demanded in patterns familiar to us from Jonestown and Waco. Matthias was eventually tried for the murder of a follower. Historians Johnson (Univ. of Utah) and Wilentz (Princeton Univ.) present a highly readable and well-researched examination of this forgotten figure of the Second Great Awakening in American religious history. Matthias is presented effectively against the backdrop of his social and economic times and brought vividly to life. Recommended for public and academic libraries with reader interest.-- C. Robert Nixon, MLS, Lafayette, Ind.
Brian McCombie
A book about American evangelicalism and cults which proves that Jim Jones and the more recent Branch Dividians are part of a longer tradition. Here, the central actor is one Robert Matthews, a sometime carpenter who transforms himself into the prophet Matthias. The time is the early 1830s, the place New York City. What Matthias would create in a few short years would bear the markings of what has become almost the stereotype of today's cult: a tyrannical leader with a vision, suspicious financial dealings, and radical teachings. It all came to a head in 1834 when Matthias was charged with murder. The penny presses of the day played up the cult's every unsavory aspect, to the horror--and, one suspects, the delight--of readers, especially when reporters discovered the various sexual liaisons among cult members. Johnson and Wilentz set their compelling history against the backdrop of an America experiencing rapid social and economic change. Theirs is as much a history of our moral and cultural formation (often via the press), as the tale of a mesmerizing, dangerous man.
From the Publisher

"The book reads much like a novel....The authors relate this offbeat tale like the good storytellers they are, sqeezing the story out of a number of sources in a creative and imaginative way."--Journal of Social History

"A history book that reads like a novel of suspense and intrique...it affords us a rare glimpse into a much-misunderstood time."--WORLD

"Johnson and Wilentz successfully anchor their narrative in the religious and economic history of the early nineteenth century."--American Historical Review

"The story is an inherently engrossing one, and its retelling will be of direct value to scholars of the history of communitarianism and of alternative religions. The scholarship here...is impressive; the authors have come up with remarkable detailed sources for a story so seemingly marginal and so long past. But even more impressive is their ability to tell an engrossing story in language at once scholarly and as compelling as that of a good novel."--Utopian Studies

"This interesting and informative examination of an early religious cult will be a definite asset for anyone doing research on the history of cults."--KLIATT, November 1995

From Barnes & Noble
The tale of Matthias the prophet provides a fascinating view of the religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening, which swept America & gave rise to new sects like the Mormons.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195038279
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/28/1994
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.81 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul E. Johnson is Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at the University of South Carolina and is the author of numerous books, including Sam Patch, the Famous Jumper and A Shopkeeper's Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837.

Sean Wilentz is George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History, Princeton University. He is the author of Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788-1950 and The Rise of Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln, among other titles.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: Two Prophets at Kirtland 3
1 Elijah Pierson 13
2 Robert Matthews 49
3 The Kingdom 91
4 The Downfall 127
Epilogue 165
A Note on Sources 181
Notes 185
Acknowledgments 221
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