A conspiracy theory flourished in New England in 1798, destroying reputations and lives—but few have ever heard the story. This gripping book chronicles the rise of the Bavarian Order of Illuminists, surveying the tumultuous political, social, and religious atmosphere that allowed the organization to take root in the United States.
Author Vernon Stauffer characterizes the mood in New England after the Revolutionary War, an atmosphere of religious disaffection and political confusion that fostered the development and spread of panic and hysteria. Stauffer traces the European beginnings of the Bavarian Order of Illuminists and the transmission of its legend across the Atlantic, culminating in the effects of the Illuminati Agitation in New England. This strictly factual account incorporates no conjecture and is enhanced by extensive footnotes. A compelling work of forgotten history, it is an essential resource for readers interested in the origins of conspiracy theory in American social and political thought.
A historical reminder of how easily conspiracy theories can grip large sections of the public, in spite of evidence to substantiate them. Paperback, 375 pages. Originally published in 1918.