Date of Award

8-1-2012

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

History

First Advisor

Carr, Kay

Abstract

Those who anticipate the end of the world are often met with ridicule. This is especially true with the Millerite movement of the 1830s and 1840s. David L. Rowe has referred to most historians' treatment of them as an episode of "comic relief in the otherwise complex and tragic play of events from Jacksonian Democracy to the Civil War." A number of scholars, starting in the 1980s, established that Millerites were not the lunatic fringe as they were once characterized, mainly by demonstrating that Millerites were not the only group in the antebellum United States harboring apocalyptic expectations, rescuing the Millerites from the fringe of the Second Great Awakening. Though critical to our understanding of Millerism, most of these studies have been inexorably confined to western New York, where the movement originated and gained the most support, virtually ignoring Millerites in other parts of the country. More importantly, these studies have failed to break down the entrenched dichotomy between the "optimistic" millennialists, represented by Finneyite evangelicals, and "pessimistic" millenarians, represented most clearly by the Millerites. By examining various aspects of the Millerite movement through its well-established press, this these shows that Millerism, more than a coherent social movement or ecclesiastical institution, was a meeting ground for various currents of millennial thought that were pervasive in the first fifty years of the American republic.

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