John Wilson (1799-1870) was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland, and took to studying innumerable histories at the library of Trinity College Dublin. Basing his studies on obscure but interesting writers who had written over the preceding century, he came to several interesting conclusions: the British are the descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes; the Royal Family is in fact the House of David; and the British and their daughter nations are the inheritors of the Covenant.
He began teaching these beliefs when he was 38, and in 1840 published his collected lectures as Our Israelitish Origin, citing Ptolemy, Diodorus, Rawlinson, Herodotus, Josephus, and the then noted writer on the topic Sharon Turner. His methodology was reminiscent of other alternative historians such as James Churchward and Erich von Daeniken.
In that era of British confidence and expansionism – when Evangelical “muscular Christians” implicitly saw the Empire as a vessel of election for the redemption of the World – Wilson’s notions presented a theological justification, much as Mormonism does for American Exceptionalism.
With their air of arcane learning, his ideas appealed to clerics: so much so that John Henry Newman’s fear of their becoming dominant in the Church of England was one factor in his conversion.
Clerics aside, many prominent people took an interest in Wilson’s ideas; and four years after his death, the Anglo-Israel Association was founded at his former residence to propagate his views.
This would be the first of many such, of which the British-Israel World Federation is the largest today. Not surprisingly, they are primarily to be found in the British Isles, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States, where Herbert Armstrong was a leading proponent.
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