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Nathaniel Gilbert (c.1721-1774)

Nathaniel Gilbert was born on the West Indian island of Antigua, the son of a wealthy planter and slave-owner and a descendent of the famous explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert.

Gilbert trained for the law in England and returned to Antigua, where he entered the House of Assembly.

He visited England in 1757 and was converted after hearing John Wesley preach in London.

Upon his return to Antigua, he started preaching to his slaves, although he did not emancipate them despite John Wesley's urgings. This marked not only the beginning of Methodism in the West Indies but also the commencement of the movement's missionary activities.

Gilbert remained prominent in Antiguan affairs and was elected Speaker of the House of Assembly in 1763.

His brother Francis served as an itinerant preacher in England.

Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)

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