A CATALOGUE OF SECTS

I recently posted about using visual materials to tell religious history.

Some of the most useful images are the really hostile cartoons and satires. Not that you expect these to be in any sense fair and balanced, but they do give an idea of the issues at stake in the polemic of the time. They are also good as teaching materials.

I have already described Hogarth’s 1761 assault on revivalists, Methodists and other bizarre fanatics. (!) Another image I have found valuable in teaching is this famous 1647 catalogue of the sects allegedly running loose in England in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, and the collapse of the established Church.

Click on the image for much better detail.

You don’t have to take the depictions as objective, or to think that Adamites (Nudists) really were too plentiful at that time. But for a sense of the religious diversity that really did exist in those years, this is eye-opening. To varying degrees, most of these sects would play a major role in the history of colonial America.

You will for instance see the following listed:

Arminians, Arians, libertines/Antinomians, Mortalists (soul-sleepers), Anabaptists, Familists, Seekers, and “Divorcers.”

The obvious question is how numerous these groups were, and how widespread outside great cities, above all London. In the 1650s, all spread their influence widely (well, maybe not the Adamites).


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