Christian Brethren Archive
Date range: 1820s-present
In the 1820s a group of likeminded Christians in Dublin became frustrated with the established churches, and decided to begin anew. A leading figure in these meetings, clergyman John Nelson Darby, took the fundamental principles of these early meetings and founded a new gathering in Plymouth in 1831. In 1848, the Brethren movement divided into the Exclusive Brethren, who followed Darby, and the Open Brethren, who preferred to retain their congregational autonomy.
The Brethren have a long history of evangelism and missionary work. Today, the Open Brethren have an estimated 2 million members worldwide, and the Exclusive Brethren number 46,000. Thanks to their focus on mission work, there are Brethren assemblies in over 100 countries.
The Christian Brethren Archive was established in 1979 at the University of Manchester Library, following the donation of a small collection of rare Brethren pamphlets. Since then it has grown steadily, and it is now the world’s largest archive relating to the Brethren. A project is currently underway to digitise a selection of the most significant items in the collection.
The collection consists of three parts:
There are just over 17,000 books, pamphlets and tracts, some purchased, and donated by Christian Brethren organisations and individuals. It is the one of the most comprehensive collections of printed material produced by and about the Brethren.
There are over 300 periodicals and journals, dating from the early 19th century to the present, a number of which are still active, and the Christian Brethren Archive accrues new issues on a regular basis. There are a particularly large number of periodicals relating to Brethren mission work.
This includes records of Brethren assemblies, organisations and conferences, and of individuals of significance within the Brethren. There is unique material relating to the formation and early days of the movement. There is also a large collection of correspondence with Brethren mission workers around the world, and several collections of visual materials, including photographs, lantern slides and paintings.
Digitised material from the Christian Brethren Archive can be found at: Library Digital Collections.
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