Talk:History of the Quakers

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Editing ideas[edit]

I would like to take out the second paragraph, as it interrupts the flow of the history and presents Quaker beliefs rather than history.

We need some good external links and sources added. Any suggestions? Logophile 16:12, 21 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I added some references to a book about Quaker History in the 17th Century by Rosemary Moore, and to two volumes of the "Works of James Nayler" published in 2003 and 2004 by Quaker Heritage Press. Also added an external link to the Quaker Heritage Press, so readers can find more information about the latter books.--Richquaker 18:00, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

I also slightly edited the section on "Early Days" to clarify that Quakerism was not precisely a "breakaway" from Anglicanism or any earlier movement, never having been part of them. --Richquaker 18:02, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

I think you are quibbling a bit. The very earliest Quakers had been part of the church of England and were breaking away from it. Quakerism definitely grew up in that milieu and was a reaction against it. It wasn't a brand new religion starated from scratch, was it? Logophile 00:46, 19 February 2006 (UTC)
It is my understanding of the history that Logophile's point is currect. Quakerism grow out of the religions that were already present, less related to the Church of England at the time, and more reacting to the growing Puritan movement. In part a rejection of them, but not entirely. Many of Foxes eariest converts were members of Cromwell's New Model Army, and were (until their expusion) considered to be in good standing both with the army and with God. To give extact references I'd have to take some time to dig it out. --Ahc 23:36, 20 February 2006 (UTC)
Perhaps the point I am making is a quibble, as Logophile suggests, but let me try to explain it further. Lutheranism "broke away" (or was forcibly expelled) from Catholicism in the sense that Martin Luther was a priest in the Catholic Church, began by trying to reform it, developed some teachings that the main body of the Church found unacceptable, and finally had to leave it. He brought whole congregations with him, so that many formerly Catholic Churches in central Europe broke away from their former affiliation and became Lutheran Churches. In the 18th century, Methodism "broke away" from the Church of England in a similar way. There are many other examples of denominations that began in this way (not least, the various branches of Quakerism that broke away from each other in the 19th century).
The original Quaker movement, however, did not follow this pattern. Some of its earliest members were "puritan" members of the Church of England (not a contradiction - the Church of England was internally divided over what direction should take, but under Cromwell it was supposed to be reforming), and some were followers of "separate preachers" (as Fox called them). Still others were Baptists, Seekers, Levelers, Diggers, etc. Unlike Martin Luther, who tried to reform the Roman Catholic Church, or John Wesley, who tried to reform the Church of England, George Fox did not try to reform any of these pre-existing churches. Nor was he ever part of the structure of these churches. He felt that all existing churches were "apostate" and that people should "come out" of them to start over with a new one. He saw this new Church (the Society of Friends) as the revival of a Primitive Christian Church that had ceased to exist in an organized form for some centuries. There were very few entire congregations that stopped being something else and re-identified as Quaker Meetings, though I think there is mention in Fox's Journal of at least one Baptist congregation that did.
I'll just draw one more analogy to make my point. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in the 1960's was a "breakaway" from the Democratic Party of Mississippi, because it organized from within it, trie in vain to reform it, and finally became a separate organization. The Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, however, had never been a part of the Democratic Party or any other political party in any state. It was not a "break-away", it was a totally separate organization from the beginning. This is true even though many of its members may, in fact, have started out as Democrats or Socialists or Republicans. In this respect (though not in any other I can think of) The Lutheran Church is more like the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the Society of Friends is more like the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. --Richquaker 23:22, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

Intro paragraph[edit]

Someone who has carefully read the whole article recently ought to write a succinct introductory paragraph to appear before the TOC. You do this by writing a first paragraph without its own double-equals-signs header. A nice hook that drew the reader into the rest of the article would be evidence of not hiding one's light under a bushel. --arkuat (talk) 06:06, 9 March 2006 (UTC)

Thanks, Goethean. --Arkuat 09:56, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
No could certainly be improved... — goethean 16:18, 10 March 2006 (UTC)

Source for population numbers?[edit]

What is the source for the 600,000 figure cited (currently) just before the TOC? The Pacific YM discipline claims that there were about 250,000 Quakers in 2000 AD. But then, I don't think it gives a source for that figure either. We ought to beware of false precision; given how difficult it is to say how many Friends there are in places such as Guatemala, Kenya, and Bolivia, perhaps something like "about half a million" would be more appropriate. --Arkuat 05:44, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

I just noticed the relevant FWCC page, which claims 338,219 (definitely false precision, but what can you do with this sort of project?). --Arkuat 05:51, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

First Sentence[edit]

We really need to do something about the first sentence in the Introduction and the first sentence in the Early Days section. They are practically identical. Any ideas? Be bold, somebody. I've wracked my brain and come up with nothing. Logophile 07:11, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

Is it just the reiteration that is bothering you? Looking at this, it doesn't jump out as the first thing in the article that needs fixing. Not every single reiteration that occurs in wikipedia is necessarily a bad thing. --arkuat (talk) 05:11, 18 March 2006 (UTC)

Valiant Sixty[edit]

I guess I just put in a request for an article on the valiant sixty (who cannot be precisely enumerated, of course, since so many of them died in jail early on), so I'm leaving this note here as a placeholder for further work on such an article. --Arkuat 06:00, 18 March 2006 (UTC)

Moved from history section of main RSoF article[edit]

(Moved from Religious Society of Friends#History. I feel the below material is more appropriate for Quaker history, but it's not at all obvious where to fit this material into the article as it stands currently. Also, it would be nice to see some sources cited. --arkuat (talk) 20:29, 18 May 2006 (UTC))

Davidites, a breakaway group[edit]

In Canada, the Toronto meeting of Quakers split in two in 1812, with the losing faction, led by charismatic American immigrant David Willson rejecting the term "Quaker" altogether. They called themselves The Children of Peace and founded the colony of Hope north of Toronto. Davidites partially rejected the doctrine of plainness and were known for their elaborate musical concerts and compositions, and particularly for their ziggurat-like meeting house, the Sharon Temple. Meetings continued to be held in the Quaker fashion, and the group placed a high emphasis on charity. Davidites do not seem to have been strict pacifists, and were known for their role in the 1837 Rebellion, on the side of the rebels. Samuel Lount, a member of the group, was one of two people in Ontario executed for their role in the Rebellion. After Willson's death in 1866, the sect declined and eventually collapsed in 1886.

20th Century Developments[edit]

One of the most glaring gaps in this article is the 20th century, just as an even larger gap exists in current Quaker historiography. Over the next little while, I hope to begin remedying this situation, and I invite others to add to and expand on what I have written so that we may begin to fill this vacuum in our knowledge.

Larry Ingle

Larry, thanks for taking the time to other day to work on filling in this gap. --Ahc 18:32, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

Quaker families in the 19th C[edit]

In London Yearly Meeting, The Chocolate Trinity - Fry, Cadbury and Rowntree, Pease family (Darlington), Fox family of Falmouth etc. . . all had a significant influence, as families not just as individuals. This has to a large extent ceased to be. Why? Can this be recognised in the article, please? === Vernon White - T A L K . . . to me. 00:04, 28 July 2007 (UTC) P.S. Looks like the Barclay family has gone!

Before Nayler[edit]

Looks like we need a section or two before Nayler. Vernon White . . . Talk 23:40, 4 November 2007 (UTC)

For what it's worth, I certainly agree. For an article on Quaker history to begin with only James Nayler and the controversy surrounding him is to do a grave injustice to the history of he Society of Friends and to severely limit readers's comprehension of the subject. Lingle (talk) 20:53, 28 June 2008 (UTC)

It seems that somebody removed the paragraph a while ago without reason in september 2007, I am going to restore the section as it was before it was removed. (talk) 17:43, 7 August 2008 (UTC)

the nayler section is way too prominent, yes. Worth mentioning, yes. At this length and so far up, no. Richardbourke (talk) 14:22, 16 February 2011 (UTC)


I just noticed that this article has been semi-protected since last November to deal with some vandalism that was happening at the time. I've requested that the protection be removed, since it was added without discussion, and it is unlikely that it is still needed. --Ahc (talk) 00:00, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

Removed new sentence[edit]

I have removed "It is also known as a christian denomintation. " added by an unregistered user. This sentence is unnecessary, in my view. This is a History article. The general article makes clear what relationship the RSoF has with the teachings of Jesus and the religious structures constructed upon them. Vernon White . . . Talk 16:07, 10 March 2008 (UTC)


In the opening section, there reads Despite the separations, Friends remain united in their commitment to discover truth and promote it. Very unencyclopedic tone, as it sounds like it was written by one of them. — ᚹᚩᛞᛖᚾᚻᛖᛚᛗ (talk) 10:05, 11 February 2009 (UTC)

"The Quakers"[edit]

I have changed the first sentence, which did read The Religious Society of Friends, also known as The Quakers. Although Quaker(s) is often used as an equivalent term to Friend(s) (even in some formal uses recently in Britain), I think the term The Quakers (with a capital T) as an equivalent for the Religious Society of Friends is very informal usage, and probably does not belong in the first sentence of an encyclopaedic article. I think it would be like starting the article on the history of the Church of England as The Church of England, also known as The Anglicans, or an article on Islamic history as Islam, also known as The Muslims - which looks very messy indeed and doesn't really make grammatical sense (although I know that some people do call the Religious Society of Friends "The Quakers", the Church of England "The Anglicans", the Roman Catholic Church "The Catholics", etc). I have changed it to just the Religious Society of Friends in the first sentence, altering the second sentence to include the fact that Friends are also known as Quakers. The general "official" title used within Britain Yearly Meeting is the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and I think this would also be a perfectly acceptable alternative for the first sentence of this article. Ceiriog (talk) 09:11, 20 June 2009 (UTC)

  • On a related note, I also think the title of the page (History of the Quakers) has the same problem with it. I think better alternatives would be either Quaker history or History of the Religious Society of Friends or History of Quakerism. Ceiriog (talk) 09:30, 20 June 2009 (UTC)
History of the Religious Society of Friends would be a good choice because it corresponds to the title of the main article. JonHarder talk 13:24, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

Quality of writing of the paragraph- Early days[edit]

I strayed into this article by accident- and in spite of my name I am not a member or attender. I would submit that the tone and quality of writing of this paragraph is an embarrassment to both the Friends and to the Wikipedia community. I have neither the time or access to the necessary resources to bring this paragraph up to an even reasonable standard. Sentences just don't make sense. The tone and language is that of twentieth century 13yr old rather than that of the 17th century theologian ¨wow¨. Then there is non-wikipedian markup-- shouting in the text etc. I am faced with one of two actions. Deletion or commenting out. In the spirit of the subject matter, I will do the latter so it can lie on the table.--ClemRutter (talk) 00:46, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

Founded in 1647[edit]

The article currently states that "George Fox founded the Religious Society of Friends in 1647". As far as I am aware there is no definite date that Friends started. The usual date given in 1652, although there is plenty of evidence that there were people expressing the ideas which became known as Quakerism prior to this date. There is no one single event which marks the foundation of this movement, and I think the article should state this, maybe saying something like "the movement which became known as The Religious Society of Friends began in the early to middle part of the 17th century", or alternatively state specifically what happened in 1647 which the editor feels was the founding event.

Comment :

As I understand it 1647 is the earliest recorded use of the word " Quaker " - see [ The Origins of the Term and the First usage of the Name " Quaker " ] - Martha Simmonds was probably one of these ' Quakers ' mentioned there - mentions her but there is as yet no wiki page - and I am not about to do one.

I am not sure of the exact date in the 1640s but the first person to use the term ' Society of Friends ' was William Erbery - see - it was his daughter Dorcas who stood trial with James Naylor, and his wife Mary who was the Quaker leader in Cardiff after his death and another daughter married one of Margaret Fell's sons. In conventional histories of Quakerism which follow the accounts devised by people like George Fox and Thomas Elwood during the years of persecution these names were deliberately written out - but William Penn remembered them.

Martha Simmonds and William Erbery can be argued to have founded Quakerism in the 1640s, or alternatively Quakerism can be seen as having erupted out of the circumstances of William Erbery being arrested in 1652 and put on trial for blasphemy as part of Cromwell's increasing grip upon the Commonwealth before he declared the Protectorate. Having survived imprisonment and then acquitted himself successfully William Erbury died in 1654 and it was at the point that the Valiant Sixty from ' The Children of Light ' who had before been ' Seekers ' arrived in London from Swarthmore Hall with the charismatic James Naylor and introduced themselves to the existing group in London whose headquarters was probably Simmonds' and Erbery's publishers Giles and Elizabeth Calvert : Martha was Giles' sister and her husband Thomas had refused to publish her radical texts. ( Apparently another person in the original group was Hannah Stranger ? ) I like to think of James Naylor as having ' gone native ' which was not the plan : having failed to convict Erbery, Cromwell then ensured that Naylor stood in for him in the second great blasphemy trial to try to stop the flow of religious and political radicalism - most of which was being printed and distibuted by the Calverts who were the only prominent leaders to stand by Naylor. After James Naylor's conviction and public punishment the leaders adhering to George Fox parted ways with the Calverts and placed their business with Thomas Simmonds who was expected in exchange to severely control Martha.

There were many other people involved in what was happening in London in the 1640s but it all awaits proper professional objective historical research that can penetrate the haze of hagiography : in my opinion it probably doesn't matter too much because it is what happened at the end of 1659 which was crucial - and everything thereafter.

If you want to read a good book about the man who first declared that " The Church is a Free Company or Society of Friends " and gave up on preaching at people and having resigned his living then refused to live on tithes etc, then read -

DaiSaw (talk) 19:31, 15 April 2014 (UTC)

Worldwide membership authentication.[edit]

Maybe those actively working on this article can be helped here A website with worldwide Quaker statistics.Stranger on the shore (talk) 09:24, 3 August 2010 (UTC)

Beacon controversy[edit]

This topic is included in the article Religious_Society_of_Friends#Beaconite_Controversy but not in this article.

"The Beaconite Controversy arose from the book A Beacon to the Society of Friends, published in 1835 by Isaac Crewdson. He was a minister in the Manchester Meeting. The controversy arose in 1831 when doctrinal differences amongst the Friends culminated in the winter of 1836-1837 with the resignation of Isaac Crewdson and of 48 fellow members of the Manchester Meeting. About 250 others left in various localities in England including prominent members. A number of these joined themselves to the Plymouth Brethren and brought influences of simplicity of worship to that society. Notable among the Plymouthists who were former Quakers included John Eliot Howard of Tottenham and Robert Mackenzie Beverley."

Anyone reviewing this text might benefit from having access to Roger C. Wilson's paper Manchester, Manchester and Manchester again - from "sound doctrine" to "a free ministry" the theological travail of London Yearly Meeting throughout the 19th Century Friends Historical Society (1990). It would be interesting to know the source of the view of the controversy from the Plymouthist point of view. Vernon White . . . Talk 08:54, 30 October 2010 (UTC)

Packed with lies and distortions[edit]

Typical cult trying to falsify history. Stupidly done too I might add. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:54, 9 January 2011 (UTC)

history of quaker missions in africa / citation needed comments[edit]

I was hoping to find some material here on the history of the quaker missions in africa for the equivalent german article at Geschichte des Quäkertums. Seemingly not available. OK, I'll try and work something up. This source:

history of east africa missions for example looks good.

correction. It doesn't. Far too late in time — Preceding unsigned comment added by Richardbourke (talkcontribs) 14:36, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

I also note the depressingly large number of "citation needed" comments. Justifiable, I think. I'll keep a lookout for citations for here while citing on the german article.

Once I work out how to do the cross-language internationalisation link to the german page, I'll do that too, in both directions Richardbourke (talk) 13:38, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

A Couple of Books of Interest to this Page[edit]

A descendant of Christopher Holder, Charles Frederick Holder, wrote two books in the early 20th century which may be interest to this wiki page, if only in the sources and further reading sections: "The Holders of Holderness; a history and genealogy of the Holder family with especial reference to Christopher Holder, head of the American Quaker branch" (1902) and "The Quakers in Great Britain and America; the religious and political history of the Society of Friends from the seventeenth to the twentieth century" (1913). Copies of both can be found in the Internet Archive site. (I've also mentioned these books on the talk page for the bio on Christopher Holder.) -- (talk) 08:25, 19 October 2011 (UTC)


The section Business in the Netherlands seems rather incomplete. The WP article on Stephen Crisp indicates that he might be mentioned. The section ends sadly with an eviction. There needs to be some back story, if that is to make sense. Vernon White . . . Talk 17:50, 26 May 2012 (UTC)

Quakers and Business[edit]

"It is impossible to overestimate the contribution of Friends to the industrial revolution." (citation for this book quote needed). Reading this article, I would not realize that the Quakers owned most of the banks in London and Philadelphia, also in Rhode Island where half the population was Quaker at one time, and most of the colonial governors were also Quaker. For example, Lloyds of London, a famous insurance company, was Quaker-owned at its start.

The American industrial revolution was bankrolled by Friend Moses Brown, who brought Friend Samuel Slater to Rhode Island carrying engineering secrets of spinning thread in his head.

Friends acted somewhat as a unified body to set up individual Friends in trading stations around the world in the 1700s, to the end of Quaker shipowners being sure that they would get tradeable goods at a fair price whenever they arrived in port. Vertical integration of the importation of coffee and chocolate led to Friends starting early coffee houses in London.

Friends are responsible for international maritime law, an early transnational law among merchants operating in multiple countries.

Meetings in the 1700s reportedly would set up one member of the meeting in business, then another member, then another. Meetings would guarantee the debts of each such member. When a member occasionally defaulted on his debts, it was an internal scandal among Friends.

Friends, ever the social idealists, laid out the broad avenues of Philadelphia in such a way that no city-wide fire has ever swept through the town in the intervening centuries. Philadelphia was planned soon after a great fire destroyed much of London. Philadelphia was also given a good drinking water supply system to reduce waterborne diseases.

While we look upon Philadelphia as the richest city in the Colonies, at one point Friends were in default to the creditors that had financed Penn's Pennsylvania experiment. Penn lived in debtors prison rather than sell Pennsylvania. Eventually Friends cut a deal with the bondholders and Penn was released.

Friends in business were often innovators and early adaptors of innovations. The Quaker iron masters of Darby, England, invented a method of controlling the carbon content in steel. Early on, they created a fairly large network of railroad tracks in order to get their iron products to market.

Friends in New Bedford and in Nantucket dominated the whale oil business. Whale oil in its day was the dominant form of lighting in America. A near-extinction of whales and the rise of petroleum led to the ending of the whaling industry.

In the 18th and 19th century, many wealthy British and American descendents of Friends started to enjoy their wealth and power, and renounced their Quaker roots. Others squabbled or were driven out of Friends for what were relatively minor offenses in retrospect. Paul Klinkman (talk) 04:21, 1 June 2012 (UTC)

  • Much of this could be incorporated if you could provide a reference for each statement.--ClemRutter (talk) 10:55, 1 June 2012 (UTC)


Having reflected for several months I am doing a little cleanup to make the article accessible to the target audience- those who are not big F Friends. I am addressing the structure, and will be adding wiki links, it would be positive if those with relevant books could tackle the missing references. --ClemRutter (talk) 10:53, 1 June 2012 (UTC)

Incorrect redirect[edit]

I fail to see the logic of doing a redirect from the correct title to a mere nickname. Zero effort has been put in to improve the article since June- nothing has changed. Is something constructive about to happen? --ClemRutter (talk) 06:21, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

Obvious error[edit]

Section 5.1, entitled "Slavery Abolition," contains several errors. The most glaring one is the assertion that "The first two prominent Friends to denounce slavery were Anthony Benezet and John Woolman." Anthony Benezet was not born until 1713, and Woolman not until 1720, a quarter century after the first anti-slavery petition written in the New World was signed by Francis Daniel Pastorious and three other Germantown settlers. SouthHero205 (talk) 19:47, 21 August 2012 (UTC)


First sentence of 6.1. is wrong. It states "70% of Quakers owned slaves in the period from 1681 to 1705;" This is an error. Hackett's book is discussing the leadership of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting specifically and not the whole Quaker membership. Also, "Most Quakers owned slaves when they first came to America" is also a glaring error as your stated sources do not claim this at all. Wood's book states that Quakers began holding slaves after William Penn's statement "slavery was perfectly acceptable provided that slave owners attended to the spiritual and material needs of those they enslaved". Even after this, only 10% of all families in Philadelphia owned at least one slave in 1700. (talk) 16:22, 10 August 2014 (UTC)