This introduction provides a brief overview of the period known as the “long nineteenth century,” which played host to and helped to shape numerous new religious movements. Highlighting the impact and occasional convergence of various political, social, and religious movements and events in both the United States and globally, this essay seeks to show that the examination of new religious movements in the nineteenth century offers a means of applying scholarship in new religious movements to religions that may be defined as “old,” while simultaneously opening new ways of understanding new religions more broadly. In the process, this overview provides background for the articles included in this special issue of Nova Religio, which explore subjects including religious utopianism; gender, politics, and Pentecostalism; Mormonism and foreign missions; and the relationships of new religious movements to visual art.

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