Cover image for The Quakers, 1656–1723: The Evolution of an Alternative Community By Richard C. Allen and Rosemary Moore

The Quakers, 1656–1723

The Evolution of an Alternative Community

By Richard C. Allen and Rosemary Moore


$45.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-08120-5

Available as an e-book

360 pages
6" × 9"

The New History of Quakerism

The Quakers, 1656–1723

The Evolution of an Alternative Community

By Richard C. Allen and Rosemary Moore

“It is welcome, valuable, and stimulating, and a necessary companion for anyone inquiring into this dynamic period of our faith community.”


  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Bio
  • Table of Contents
  • Sample Chapters
  • Subjects
This landmark volume is the first in a century to examine the “Second Period” of Quakerism, a time when the Religious Society of Friends experienced upheavals in theology, authority and institutional structures, and political trajectories as a result of the persecution Quakers faced in the first decades of the movement’s existence.

The authors and special contributors explore the early growth of Quakerism, assess important developments in Quaker faith and practice, and show how Friends coped with the challenges posed by external and internal threats in the final years of the Stuart age—not only in Europe and North America but also in locations such as the Caribbean. This groundbreaking collection sheds new light on a range of subjects, including the often tense relations between Quakers and the authorities, the role of female Friends during the Second Period, the effect of major industrial development on Quakerism, and comparisons between founder George Fox and the younger generation of Quakers, such as Robert Barclay, George Keith, and William Penn.

Accessible, well-researched, and seamlessly comprehensive, The Quakers, 1656–1723 promises to reinvigorate a conversation largely ignored by scholarship over the last century and to become the definitive work on this important era in Quaker history.

In addition to the authors, the contributors are Erin Bell, Raymond Brown, J. William Frost, Emma Lapsansky-Werner, Robynne Rogers Healey, Alan P. F. Sell, and George Southcombe.

“It is welcome, valuable, and stimulating, and a necessary companion for anyone inquiring into this dynamic period of our faith community.”
“It is important reading for experienced scholars of the period’s religious history, but will also be vital for post-graduates looking for up-to-date scholarship on the history of dissent, undergraduates seeking a handle on complicated political, social and religious matters, and a general readership with a keen interest in history. It is a tribute not just to the quality of the individual chapters, but to the work of Allen and Moore in ensuring consistency in tone and content, that so many groups will be so well served by what will surely be received as the definitive history of this period of Quaker history for the coming generation.”
The Quakers, 1656–1723 is a really significant contribution to Quaker studies scholarship and an impressively coherent collection of some of the best and latest thinking about the enigmatic ‘second period.’ This book offers us a clear way through the nuances and complexities of a period of massive change for the Quaker movement.”
“A new, up-to-date history of early Quakers, the first in over a century, is particularly welcome. Quakers have been the subject of many recent specialized studies, but this new work sets out to address some of the latest concerns: the role of women, changes in Quaker authority and theology, the decline in religious radicalism and the growing compromises with 'the world,’ and the engagement of Friends in Europe and America.”
“This is an important book that revitalizes our understanding of a neglected period of Quaker history. The book’s focus on the Atlantic world is particularly welcome, and this will be an invaluable resource for historians of early modern religion in both Britain and America.”
“This is an exceptionally authoritative, balanced, vivid, insightful, and painstakingly crafted account of Quakers from 1656 to 1723, during which time Quakers consolidated their organization, combated schisms, and suffered persecution. The first such one-volume narrative with ample coverage of the maturing Quaker community on both sides of the Atlantic, this fascinating book chronicles the final years of influential and charismatic founders (George Fox, George Whitehead), as well as momentous achievements by newly convinced Quakers (William Penn, Robert Barclay) and the ministry of leading Quaker women (Margaret Fell, Dorothy White).”
“The period from 1656 to 1723 has been one of the great voids for historians of Quakerism. Now Rosemary Moore and Richard Allen have provided us with what will certainly prove to be, for a generation, the definitive history of Quakers and Quakerism in this period. Based on wide-ranging research in sources both Quaker and non-Quaker and fully in dialogue with the scholarship on Quakerism, Dissent, Stuart England, and the early Atlantic world, this book is one of the most welcome, and important, works on Quaker history to appear in the twenty-first century.”
“A welcome and timely contribution to the history of the Quakers between 1656 and 1723.”

Richard C. Allen is Visiting Fellow in History at Newcastle University.

Rosemary Moore is the author of The Light in Their Consciences: The Early Quakers in Britain, 1646–1666, also published by Penn State University Press.


AbbreviationsIntroduction, Richard C. Allen and Rosemary Moore1. “The Early Development of Quakerism,” Rosemary Moore2. “Quakerism Beyond England to 1666,” Richard C. Allen3. “Gospel Order: The Development of Quaker Organization,” Rosemary Moore4. “Living as a Quaker During the Second Period,” Richard C. Allen5. “Beyond Britain: The Quakers in the European Continent and the Americas, 1666-1682,” Richard C. Allen6. “Quakers and Dissenters in Dispute,” Raymond Brown and Alan P. F . Sell7. “Quaker Expressions of Belief in the Lifetime of George Fox,” Rosemary More8. “The Quakers and Politics, 1660-1689,” George Southcombe9. “Adjusting to New Conditions in Britain and America, 1690-1700,” J. William Frost10. “Quaker Life and Communities at the Turn of the Century,” Emma Lapsansky-Werner11. “The Friends and Business in the Second Period,” Richard C. Allen and Rosemary Moore12. “The Quakers and the Law,” Erin Bell13. “Into the Eighteenth Century,” Robynne Rogers HealeyAppendix: TimelineSelected BibliographyList of ContributorsIndex

From the Introduction

Richard C. Allen and Rosemary MooreThe large blue volumes of the Rowntree History series, the first and only comprehensive study of Quaker history, were published around a hundred years ago and are still a feature of many Quaker meeting house libraries. Arguably the greatest of them, still valued by scholars today, is William Charles Braithwaite’s The Beginnings of Quakerism (1912, partially revised second edition 1955), covering the years up to 1660, the so-called first period of Quakerism. In the past fifty years, this period has received much attention from scholars, and Braithwaite’s Beginnings has been supplemented by a number of more recent works. The situation regarding the second period, approximately 1660–1720, is another matter. The Rowntree Histories dealing with these years were, for Britain, Braithwaite’s The Second Period of Quakerism (1919, partially revised second edition 1961) and, for America, Rufus Jones’s The Quakers in the American Colonies (1909). Since then, research has moved on regarding both mainstream history and particular aspects of Quakerism, but there has not been a one-or two-volume work on the Quaker history of that period. The time seems to have come for a new book on the second period as a whole, which is the aim of the present volume.Where to begin and end? The restoration of King Charles II in 1660 is often taken as a convenient dividing line, and it was used by the Rowntree historians and by many others. However, Rosemary Moore, in The Light in Their Consciences, found no clear punctuation mark in Quaker history around 1660. The Quakers were affected, inevitably and seriously, by the changing political scene, but as regarded their organization and ideas, there were no obvious developments during the early 1660s; rather, these first show signs of shifting in the late 1650s. The major changes followed the release of George Fox from Scarborough Castle in September 1666, when within a few years the Quakers acquired a new organization, a new headquarters, and several of its most important exponents, notably William Penn and Robert Barclay. It marked a new beginning for the Quakers, but the impact of the political developments of the early 1660s makes it impossible to understand later developments in Quakerism without reference to the earlier period. The next punctuation mark in Quaker history occurred in the two years around 1690, with the introduction of religious toleration in Britain and the death of George Fox. This could be taken as the endpoint of the second period, but there was a long coda—an intermediate period continuing well into the next century—which ended with the death of George Whitehead, the last survivor of the original Quaker preachers. This has a convenient political equivalent in the Affirmation Act of 1722, confirming and clarifying the right of British Quakers to affirm rather than to take judicial oaths. Such is the justification for the end date in the collection, although there is contextualizing information that predates 1656 and postdates 1723.The Rowntree Histories had two volumes for the period, one for Britain and one for America. Works of this length are no longer feasible, and in any case, splitting British and American Quaker history is a false dichotomy. At least to the end of the seventeenth century and perhaps afterward, British and American Quakerism were two sides of the same story. The Quakers were settling along the Eastern Seaboard of the Americas from the 1650s, with major migrations in the 1670s and 1680s, and they kept close ties with their friends and relations in Britain. As Frederick B. Tolles, author of the introduction to the second edition of The Second Period, wrote, “Friends on both sides of the Atlantic came to feel that they were members of a single community, an Atlantic community of Friends.” This collection of essays therefore deals with both sides of the Atlantic.

Although there is no recent single book dealing with Quakerism at this time, there has been a good deal of fresh work on various aspects of the period, updating Braithwaite and Jones. The interpretation of mainstream history has changed greatly, and this book will endeavor to place Quakerism firmly within the current understanding of late Stuart politics. Women’s studies did not exist a hundred years ago, and there are recent studies of the position of women in seventeenth-century Quakerism, which will be taken into consideration. In this context, the decision was made not to have a separate chapter on the position of women in Quakerism but rather to include them and their important roles in the various chapters as appropriate. Local history, as a subject in its own right, has developed enormously, and there have been many studies of the history of British Quaker communities and meetings, varying from major scholarly works through a number of smaller books to short pamphlets. This collection makes use of these sources and others in chapters on the life of Quakers during these years. There is still only a small body of work relating to the Friends on the European continent but much concerning the other side of the Atlantic. American research output reflects the experiences of the Friends in the former colonies. Although information is available relating to the settlement of the Friends in the Eastern Seaboard and elsewhere, there is still much left to be uncovered in how settlements were established, the way cultural characteristics were transferred, and how the Friends were able to retain contacts with their former meetings, relatives, and neighbors. From the late twentieth century onward, Caribbean Quakerism has received significant attention, and the origins and decline of the Friends in the region have been explored, as well as the missionary visits paid to these Quaker communities. Among other things, these studies have scrutinized the religious observances of the Barbadian islanders and the disagreements the Quaker community had with the authorities. Significantly, the importance of Fox’s visit to Barbados in 1671 and the ambiguities of his guidance to the islanders have been identified. An important book on the development of the Quaker peace testimony is Meredith Baldwin Weddle’s Walking in the Way of Peace, which will be useful for context in this current study.

There is as yet no published study as such about the institutionalization of Quakerism in the later seventeenth century, although it comes into other works, especially some of the works on women. This is hardly surprising, as, apart from well-documented controversies, it is the story of what was going on locally, in every monthly and quarterly meeting, and how this related to the center of administration in London. The local and regional studies of recent years have proved essential in teasing out some of the history. For the present work, the assistance of a number of volunteers who gathered information from county archives has been invaluable, providing opportunities to explore new fields of research and propose new areas on which to follow up.This book will look at the position of the Quakers in relation to the society in which they lived. The understanding of the Quaker position in relation to the law has been completely changed by Craig W. Horle in his work on the Friends and the English legal system, and this remains the standard text. There will be chapters on the Quakers in relation to the law of the land and to contemporary politics in general. Braithwaite and Jones, and many other historians of Quakerism, were Quakers writing from the Quaker point of view, so it is pleasing to note that two senior scholars in the field of dissenting history, Raymond Brown and Alan Sell, agreed to write a chapter on the Quakers’ conflicts with contemporary dissenters. Relating to disputes between the Baptists and the Quakers, there is one key text, Ted Underwood’s Primitivism, Radicalism and the Lamb’s War, and Brown has added to Underwood’s findings from his own research. Alan Sell very sadly died before he could advise about the background literature for his sections of this chapter.The end of the second period overlies the beginning of industrial development, a fact ignored by Braithwaite and Jones. George Whitehead could have seen a steam engine. The business interests of the Friends expanded during the eighteenth century, but their roots lie earlier. The pioneeringwork was Arthur Raistrick’s 1950 Quakers in Science and Industry, since when the burgeoning science of industrial archaeology has uncovered much of interest concerning Quaker industrialists, while American historians have explored the commercial instincts of the Friends involved in transatlantic trade. A chapter on the Quakers in business summarizes present knowledge and looks at the histories of some individual enterprises and industrial entrepreneurs.

Regarding the main figures in late seventeenth-century Quakerism, there are a good number of recent studies relating to Margaret Fell, and Larry Ingle’s biography of George Fox is one of several that have analyzed the significance of this leading Quaker spokesperson. There is no good modern biography of William Penn, but The World of William Penn, edited by Richard S. Dunn and Mary M. Dunn, contains a great deal of useful background material, and the Dunns’ multivolume Papers of William Penn provides an invaluable resource. Melvin B. Endy’s William Penn and Early Quakerism remains valuable, and his journal articles and book chapters comprise much of the best recent work on Penn. Currently, there are no comprehensive modern studies of George Keith, Robert Barclay, or George Whitehead. Until recently, there has been no major study of theological developments in our period, but this has been largely remedied by the appearance of Early Quakers and Their Theological Thought.There has been some discussion among Quaker historians as to the merits of “insider” versus “outsider” history, comparing the advantages of knowing from the inside how Quakerism actually works with the advantages of a fresh perspective from outside. The outstanding example of the merits of “outsider” history is the earlier work of Christopher Hill and other historians of the “Marxist” school, which established beyond doubt that the political nature of early Quakerism had been largely overlooked by Quaker historians. The contributions from both Quaker and non-Quaker scholars thereby helps avoid any insularity of outlook, particularly as they come from both sides of the Atlantic. Moreover, to avoid an inward-looking denominational work, some chapters are written by scholars whose expertise is in fields other than Quaker studies, which intersected with Quaker history at this period in time.The collection is broadly chronological in that the opening chapters explore the early growth of Quakerism, while the last one reviews the transition to the eighteenth century. In between, the first half of the book mainly considers developments in Quaker faith and practice, particularly during the reign of Charles II, and the latter part deals with the changes in Quakerism posed by external and internal threats in the final years of the Stuart age. It was conceived to be accessible to the specialist and nonspecialist reader alike. It is to be understood that this present volume has limitations. It is far too short for its subject matter, and some significant themes are barely touched on or are omitted altogether. Yet if it serves to awaken interest and to suggest topics for further investigation, it will have served its purpose.[Excerpt ends here.]

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