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J. M. Robertson

John Mackinnon Robertson (14 November 1856 5 January 1933) was a prolific journalist, advocate of rationalism and secularism, and Liberal Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom for Tyneside from 1906 to 1918.



Robertson was born on the Isle of Arran and left school at the age of thirteen, working first as a clerk and then as a journalist. He became assistant editor of the Edinburgh Evening News.[1]

In 1878 he became a follower of secularist leader Charles Bradlaugh and became active in the secularist cause in Edinburgh, before moving to London to become assistant editor of Bradlaugh's paper National Reformer, subsequently taking over as editor on Bradlaugh's death in 1891.[1] The National Reformer finally closed in 1893. Robertson was also an appointed lecturer for the freethinking South Place Ethical Society[2] from 1899 until the 1920s.

Robertson's political radicalism developed in the 1880s and 1890s, and he first stood for Parliament in 1895, failing to win Bradlaugh's old seat in Northampton as an independent radical liberal. Robertson was a staunch free trader and his Trade and Tariffs (1908) "became a bible for free-traders pursuing the case for cheap food and the expansion of trade".[3]

In 1923 he contested the General Election as Liberal candidate for Hendon without success.

Robertson died in London in 1933.[1]


Economically, Robertson has been described as an underconsumptionist, and he gave an early form, perhaps the earliest formal statement, of the paradox of thrift in his 1892 book The Fallacy of Saving.[4][5]

Robertson was an advocate of the Jesus-Myth theory, and in several books he argued passionately against the historicity of Jesus. According to Robertson, the character of Jesus in the New Testament developed from a Jewish cult of Joshua, whom he identifies as a solar deity. Oxford theologian and orientalist Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare wrote a book titled, The Historical Christ, directed specifically against Robertson and two other Jesus-myth advocates.

Selected works

  • History of Freethought in the Nineteenth Century, (1899)
  • (1900)
  • (1902)
  • (1905, 2nd edition)
  • (2 vols, 1915)
  • The Historical Jesus (1916)
  • The Jesus Problem (1917)
  • Short History of Morals (1920)
  • Jesus and Judas (1927)



External links

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