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The Manuscript Journal of Joseph Oppenheimer, City Missionary

A small hand-written journal kept daily by a door-to-door evangelist with the London City Mission in 1861 provides a rich resource for our understanding of urban mission in the midst of the desperate poverty of slum life. Through a study of these notations, penned by German-Jewish convert and city missionary Joseph Oppenheimer, Donald Lewis sheds new light on the work of Victorian Evangelicals among the urban poor "in darkest London."



Mark Noll 
Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History (Emeritus), University of Notre Dame

"The slums of Victorian London have provided the setting for countless tales of murder, intrigue, and dissipation, an urban landscape where Sherlock Holmes and mythologies of Jack the Ripper have had a field day. Donald Lewis' compelling book documents a person who, through desperately difficult work, sought not sensationalism but salvation. Joseph Oppenheimer, a converted German Jew, left a diary from his work with the London City Mission that is here quoted at illuminating length and also used for an informative account of Christian outreach to London's poor in the years shortly before William Booth's more famous mission launched the Salvation Army. Expert use of the diary and expert provision of historical context makes this a testimony to persistent Christian dedication and also the transforming power of the Gospel. Oppenheimer himself grew discouraged about the lack of results from his patient visiting, counseling, and witnessing, but from his historical distance what he accomplished shines like a beacon of hope."

David Bebbington

Emeritus Professor of History

University of Stirling

"Donald Lewis, the scholar who knows more than anybody else about the London City Mission in the nineteenth century, has edited a journal kept by one of its agents, a German-Jewish convert named Joseph Oppenheimer, during 1861-1862. The full transcription records Oppenheimer's ministry among the very poor of the British capital, and eight chapters analyze aspects of his efforts in pioneer evangelism. Here is a source that vividly illuminates the work of Victorian Evangelicals in the growing cities of the age."


Professor David Green 
Department of Geography, King's College, London

"I love the fact that Joseph Opennheimer's diary has not [till now] seen the light of day and that it now comes with a commentary. This really opens it up to use by undergraduates."


1. Dillenburg, Elizabeth. “In Darkest London: The Manuscript of Joseph Oppenheimer, City Missionary.” Church History 89, no. 1 (March 2020): 204–6.


"In Darkest London not only sheds light on this relatively unknown figure and source but is also useful as a research and pedagogical resource.  This book would be an effective text in a variety of undergraduate and graduate course from religious history to urban history to historical methods.”


2.  Evans, Eric J. “In Darkest London: The Manuscript of Joseph Oppenheimer, City Missionary.” The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 70, no. 3 (July 2019): 667–68.


“As Donald Lewis argues persuasively in this well-organized work, the lack of sustained middle-class engagement with working-class culture was a major reason for mutual misunderstanding between classes and especially so in the matter of faith where Evangelicalism was dominant. …. Lewis has unearthed, and made effective use of, a neglected source …. Lewis has made a significant contribution to our understanding of Victorian Evangelicalism.”

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