Burrough was born in Underbarrow, Cumbria, and educated in the Church of England, but became a Presbyterian before converting to Quakerism. He heard George Fox preach in 1652 and immediately converted to what later came to be known as the Religious Society of Friends during his late teens. He was consequently rejected by his parents. Burrough became itinerant preaching throughout England, traveling with another Friend, Francis Howgill.
During the years 1656-1657 Burrough and John Bunyan were engaged in a debate by way of pamphlets. First Bunyan published Some Gospel Truths Opened in which he attacked Quaker beliefs. Burrough responded with The True Faith of the Gospel of Peace. Bunyan countered Burrough's pamphlet with A Vindication of Some Gospel Truths Opened, which Burrough answered with Truth (the Strongest of All) Witnessed Forth. Later the Quaker leader George Fox entered the verbal fray by publishing a refutation of Bunyan's essay in his The Great Mystery of the Great Whore Unfolded.
Upon the Restoration in 1660, Burrough approached King Charles II to find protection and relief of Quakers in New England, who were then being persecuted by Puritans. Charles granted him an audience in 1661, and was persuaded to issue a writ stopping (temporarily) the corporal and capital punishments of the Quakers in Massachusetts. Burrough arranged for the writ to be delivered by Samuel Shattuck, himself a Quaker under ban from Massachusetts. Charles's writ commanded the Massachusetts authorities to send the imprisoned Quakers to England for trial, but they chose instead to release them. The king's order effectively stopped the hangings, but imprisonments and floggings were resumed the next year.
In 1662, Burrough was arrested for holding a meeting, which was illegal under the terms of the Quaker Act. He was sent to Newgate Prison, London. An order for his release signed by Charles II was ignored by the local authorities, and Burrough remained in Newgate until his death on February 14, 1663, aged just 29 ("twelfth month 1662" in the Old Style and Quaker terminologies). He was buried in the Quaker Burying Ground at Bunhill Fields.
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- Sample of Burrough's writing
- The Quaker Women Online entry for Hester Biddle, who converted to Quakerism after hearing Burrough and Francis Howgill preach
- A Declaration of the Sad and Great Persecution and Martyrdom of the People of God, called Quakers, in New-England, for the Worshipping of God (1661) online PDF edition
- Edward Burrough: A Memoir By William and Thomas Evans (London: Charles Gilpin, 1851) online edition.
- Claus Bernet (2002). "Edward Burrough". In Bautz, Traugott. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German) 20. Nordhausen: Bautz. cols. 257–283. ISBN 3-88309-091-3.