The British Isles are the homeland of Methodism, a religious and social holiness revival movement that began within the Church of England during the 1730s. John Wesley (1703–1791), whose theological writings and organizational skills drove the movement, traced Methodism's origins back to the Holy Club, a worship, study, and benevolent service group founded at Oxford University by his brother, Charles Wesley (1707–1788). In the summer of 1738 both John and Charles Wesley underwent dramatic conversions that resulted in a newfound religious enthusiasm that offended many fashionable churches in London. Excluded from their pulpits, John Wesley found a more receptive audience among the poor and laboring classes of England when he adopted field preaching at the urging of George Whitefield.
John Wesley's theology emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit in awakening a desire for God, assuring the Christian of God's grace, and perfecting one's love for God and neighbor. Hallmarks of Methodism include intentional cultivation of spiritual vitality, active compassion for the needy, and the conviction that God's Grace may be experienced by all who desire it.
As the Methodist (Wesleyan) movement took hold in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, it was also exported to Great Britain's colonies. After John Wesley's death in 1791, Methodists in Great Britain officially separated from the Church of England. Today there are approximately 15 million Methodist throughout the world.
This manuscript collection features more than one hundred pieces of incoming or outgoing correspondence associated with Methodists in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Supplementing these letters are autographs, signed documents, engravings, photographs, and printed items. Materials in this collection date from 1740 to 1917. The collection contains information about the lives of ministers, Wesleyan conference presidents, and their correspondents.