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In the 1820s a group of likeminded Christians in Dublin, Ireland, 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 meeting in Plymouth, England, in 1831, which was known as an assembly.In the 1820s a group of likeminded Christians in Dublin, Ireland, 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 meeting in Plymouth, England, in 1831, which was known as an assembly.

In 1848, the Brethren movement divided into the Exclusive Brethren, who followed Darby, and the Open Brethren, who preferred to retain their autonomy. The Brethren also 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 ArchiveThe 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 via donations and purchases, and it is now the world’s largest archive relating to the Brethren. It continues to accrue new material, and a project is currently underway to digitise a selection of the most significant items inthe collection. 

The collection consists of three parts:

• Printed MaterialThere are just over 17,000 books, pamphlets and tracts, some of which were donated by Christian Brethren organisations and individuals, and some of which we have purchased. It is the one of the most comprehensive collections of printed material produced by and about the Brethren. 

• PeriodicalsThere are over 300 periodicals and journals, dating from the early 19th century to the present, a number of which are still active, and acquire new issues on a regular basis. There are a particularly large number of periodicals relating to Brethren missionary work.

• Archival Material This includes records of Brethren assemblies, organisations and conferences, and of individuals of importance and renown within the Brethren. There is unique material relating to the formation and early days of the movement, and for founder members of the Brethren, including John Nelson Darby and Benjamin Wills Newton. There is also a large collection of correspondence with Brethren missionary workers around the world, and several collections of visual materials, including photographs, lantern slides and paintings. 

All readers are welcome to visit the Christian Brethren Archive to consult the material that we hold. 

For more information about the Christian Brethren Archive, please visit our webpages, where there are links to catalogues: http://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/search-resources/special-collections/guide-to-special-collections/christian-brethren-collections/

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