Elizabeth Bouldin, Women Prophets and Radical Protestantism in the British Atlantic World, 1640–1730 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 224. ISBN 9781107095519. Hardcover, £81.00.
Elizabeth Bouldin’s compelling study on women’s prophecy in the early modern period takes us to little-explored territory, both figuratively and literally. Focussing on the late expression of the peak of women’s prophetic writing in mid-seventeenth-century England, Bouldin tackles the texts of radical Protestant women who prophesied between the British Civil Wars and the Great Awakening. The proliferation of radical Protestant groups during this time produced, in Bouldin’s words, ‘the first great wave of female prophecy in the British Atlantic’ (p. 2). The dissenting communities represented in this study are mainly German Pietists—northern European Protestants who sought for further Reformed churches—the French Prophets—radical Calvinists who arrived in London from southern France in the first decades of the eighteenth century—General and Particular Baptists, English Philadelphians and the Quakers.
Bouldin’s analysis identifies the prophets’ religious and national affiliations of their respective groups as a typical feature of early modern Protestantism, including their transnational and transconfessional nature. Bouldin is interested in showing how prophets would not just travel the Atlantic but also correspond with others from different nationalities and religious groups and establish various links, often emphasising their theological discrepancies. Their claim to election was at the core of their discussions. The various approaches to election are thus examined in Chapter 1 in the context of the Civil Wars and their aftermath: specifically, how Sarah Wight, Katherine Sutton and Mary Cary relied on election as a rhetorical tool that allowed them to ground their identity as prophets and establish ‘imagined communities of elect persons’ (p. 17) within their nation. As Bouldin rightly notes, the concept of predestination was the bedrock of seventeenth-century theology, as well as a point of contention in England and the American colonies with regard to the interplay of free will and grace in determining salvation. Bouldin highlights the examples of Antoinette Bourignon and the English Quaker Joan Whitrowe, who opposed the Calvinist doctrine of election by offering anti-Calvinist interpretations of the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau as told in Romans 9, which was typically invoked as indicative of predestination and reprobation. Instead, Whitrowe interpreted the story as posing a situation that allowed the individual to choose good over evil. Quaker prophecies of the period often referred to the elect in a collective sense as belonging to the ‘holy seed’; they were ‘living stones’ who formed a Church. This Church, rather than the soul of the individual, was predestined to election. As Bouldin suggests, collective election was attractive for prophets, Quaker ones in particular, because it gave justification to their sufferings.
The connections between prophecy, a sense of community and election is further looked at as an intrinsic part of seventeenth-century Quaker women. Early on, as the Quaker sense of community developed as a result of seeing themselves as a persecuted people, they related to biblical Israel and its prophets. Bouldin reminds readers of the importance Quakers gave to the printing and circulation of their works to project the idea of a unified movement. As Quakers travelled to different locations in the 1670s their networks sought to reinforce communal ties, while, at the same time, they assimilated into their new communities, a process that often forced them to change their narrative as a persecuted group. In this way, prophetic speech began to be supervised and even censored by the congregation and Quaker notions of community became more institutional than spontaneous as a genuine response to the Friends’ persecution. Bouldin’s originality in tracing the doctrinal evolution of women Quaker prophets is remarkable, as in the case of Joan Whitrowe. By the end of the seventeenth century her adoption of mystical millenarianism is closer to that of Philadelphians in that her pamphlets ‘invoked the image of the apocalyptic woman described in Revelation 12, a key figure in the writings of Behmenist millenarians such as Ann Bathurst and Jane Lead’ (p. 87). Bouldin looks at the ways the ideology and the organisational zest of Quaker groups influenced and were influenced wherever they went, particularly in America, where their preeminence as a nonconformist group earned them a reputation ‘in broader society for the commercial success of its trading networks’ (p. 87). Bouldin marks the point that the Friends’ high visibility as a religious collective integrated them in several areas of civic life, including business, which helps explain why other dissenting groups in Europe and the British Isles sought to liaise with the Quakers.
In Chapter 3, Bouldin’s focus on Behmenism illuminates the relationship between prophet and follower as well as the significance of the trope of the ‘apocalyptic woman’—as the Pietist philosopher and Bourignon promoter Pierre Poiret would show in his writings by comparing her labour pains being ‘similar to those of the women in Revelation 12 when one of her followers experienced a conversion’ (p. 117). Bouldin argues that, with this turn in prophetic female imagery under the influence of Behmenism, women’s prophecy gravitated away from the political and leaned towards the establishment of a true Church of believers within ‘a corrupt society’, while keeping the radical implications of election and the anticipation of a millenarian transformation of society. The emphasis on the relationship between prophet and follower, which could involve large audiences, created a crisis in authority when reports of miraculous healings took place or when prophesying became ‘too theatrical’.
Bouldin deals with these aspects in Chapter 4 with several lesser-known case studies, such as those of prophets Mary Keimer or Anna Maria King. The dramatisation of the prophetic act triggered attacks on religious enthusiasm that were widespread in the first decades of the eighteenth century. In the closing chapter Bouldin argues how letter-writing networks among dissenters, which often dealt with election and circulated in a transnational setting, helped radical Protestants as a whole group united in its diversity to consolidate their structures in the public sphere—which included publication—and negotiate different types of prophetic revival in the mid-eighteenth-century Great Awakening: whether communities rejected religious enthusiasm, or embraced it moderately or completely, prophecy gave way to a trans-European concept of election.
Elizabeth Bouldin’s study enhances our understanding of late seventeenth-century and early eighteenth-century women’s prophecy as a trans-national phenomenon that is articulated around the notion of election. It adds to a current scholarly interest in explaining prophecy as a corpus, from theological approaches focused on a specific community, such as the Baptists,1 or a complex figure such as Jane Lead,2 to a more literary approach.3 It can also be of special interest to those studying the social influence and outreach of Quaker prophecy in the formation of a Quaker identity in America. Bouldin’s volume makes a solid contribution to the large prophetic corpus by women in the early modern period with a convincing incursion into why and how hundreds of women in religious movements sought their own way of expression within and beyond their national and linguistic communities across the Atlantic.
Ignacio Gallup-Diaz and Geoffrey Plank (eds), Quakers and Native Americans (Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2019), pp. xiv + 328. ISBN 9789004354968. Hardback, $128.00.
Central to the myth of Pennsylvania’s founding are narratives regarding the interactions between Quakers and Indigenous peoples. The sixteen-chapter volume Quakers and Native Americans, edited by Ignacio Gallup-Diaz and Geoffrey Plank, challenges these histories. Gallup-Diaz and Plank organise the chapters chronologically, ranging from the seventeenth-century pre-Quaker history of North America to the twentieth century, with a vision for future reconciliation work. The contents trace the interactions of Quakers with many tribes, across time and geography.
The editors note that the myth of Pennsylvania developed in Eurocentric ways, often ignoring the contributions of Indigenous people, a methodological problem that Jean R. Soderlund helps to address in her chapter, ‘The Lenape Origins of Delaware Valley Peace and Freedom’. The anonymity of Native American voices in these early encounters portended the Euro-American legacy of overlooking the values, traditions and rights of Indigenous people.
Much of the volume reflects on the troubling history of Quaker-supported or Quaker-run Indian boarding schools. Some of the chapters provide important methodological considerations when approaching the history of Native Americans (see Mary Beth Start’s ‘Remembering and Forgetting—Local History and the Kin of Paul Cuffe in an Upper Canadian Quaker Community’), other chapters focus on the role of gender in the assimilation process. As there is too much in this volume to cover adequately here, this review will focus on three themes: 1) the agency and power maintained by Indigenous people in the face of corrupt policies; 2) the appropriately critical reassessment of Quaker relationships to Native Americans; and 3) the importance of scholarship and historical research in the pursuit of truth and reconciliation.
The history of Euro-American treatment of Indigenous people in North America is horrific, but overlooking the ingenuity with which American Indians exercised power and agency perpetuates a Eurocentric interpretation of North American history. In Quakers and Native Americans, the actions of Indigenous people on behalf of themselves and their communities play an important role in social and political events since the seventeenth century. For example, Scott Wert argues that while the Quaker religion has been celebrated as important for creating peace with Native Americans in early Pennsylvania not enough attention has been paid to the role of Iroquois religious ceremony in enhancing relationships across groups of settlers and other tribes in the seventeenth century (p. 55). Likewise, Laurence Hauptman shows that Seneca leaders strategically manipulated Quaker efforts to ‘civilise’ them by gift giving, flattery and selectively focusing on pieces of the Quaker message most important to their social and political needs. This strategy created relationships of reciprocity and indebtedness with Quaker emissaries who, without fully understanding the nature of the reciprocal relationship they had entered into, gave Seneca causes a favourable representation at the seats of United States political power (p. 156). As Lori Daggar argues of Ohio Country Indigenous People after the War of 1812, and that may be broadly understood as a legitimate Indigenous strategy, ‘[Ohio Country Indigenous people] took part in an imperial struggle on Americans’ terms, but they eked out victories that frustrated U.S. attempts to take the region by force or for no financial compensation or simply entirely on the state’s own terms’ (p. 217).
Quakers and Native Americans not only reassesses the role of Indigenous peoples in the fashioning of American history but also challenges the Quaker mythology of wise benevolence toward Native Americans. Ray Batchelor’s chapter argues that the anti-Quaker political parties in eighteenth-century Pennsylvania narrowed accepted views of masculinity to martial views that legitimated violence toward Indigenous people and marginalised Quaker efforts at exercising political power. The Quaker search for an acceptable masculinity after the American Revolution finally settled on a patriarchal masculinity that reduced Indigenous people to children in need of civilisation from benevolent Euro-American Friends (pp. 79 and 91). The feminising and infantilising of Native Americans as a way to justify dominance by self-identifying fatherly Quakers was part of a larger programme designed to eradicate Native American culture. Carol Nackenoff describes how ‘Field Matrons’, many of whom were Quaker, were appointed by the US government and given access to Indigenous domestic spheres in order to use their position to teach Native Americans acceptable, middle-class Protestant values and traditions (p. 289).
There were some differences between Quaker assimilation efforts and those performed by others. Nonetheless, Quakers were committed to assimilating and ‘civilising’ Native Americans, which meant replacing Indigenous culture and values with Eurocentric ones. Quakers and Native Americans presents an important study of this history. Giving voice to these events acknowledges what Palmer identifies as the ongoing, generational ‘psychological trauma’ faced by American Indians (pp. 293–94). Quakers believed they had the best intentions, but this view was founded on their conviction that their values were superior. ‘Certain of the gains that awaited their students for becoming more “civilized,” the Quaker teachers [in “Indian” schools] could not comprehend the losses the children suffered as they became less Indian’ (p. 309). Thus, Ellen Ross shows how the Quaker self-perception as allies and friends of Native Americans overlooked Quaker blind spots in regards to Indigenous cultures and their own assumptions of superiority (p. 116). Confessing these uncomfortable truths, according to John Echohawk, is essential for healing to take place. ‘The victims may only begin their healing process once they understand what has hurt them and how it affects them … a wrongdoer (or the successor to or beneficiary of a wrongdoer’s interests) cannot be free of the chains of the wrongs committed until responsibility for them is accepted’ (p. 312).
Quakers and Native Americans is an important contribution to histories of Quakers, the United States and Indigenous studies. The chapters presented in this volume challenge and extend previous studies. Importantly, the volume asserts that history is not amoral—just as history can be used to forget voices of dissent and anguish, it can also be a part of a larger work of truth and reconciliation and, so, provide a service well beyond the walls of the academy.
Richard C. Allen and Rosemary Moore (eds), The Quakers, 1656–1723: The Evolution of an Alternative Community (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2018), pp. x + 345. ISBN 9780271081205. Hardback $39.95.
The second period of Quakerism is a neglected chapter of the movement’s early history that has attracted far less scholarly attention than its enthusiastic beginnings. The Quakers, 1656–1723 thus makes an important contribution to this historiographical oversight and provides a powerful case for revitalising our understanding of the movement in this period. The result is a nuanced, sensitive and ambitious collection of chapters that synthesise the major recent breakthroughs in Quaker history while also furthering debates on particular dimensions of second-generation Quakerism.
Aimed at both a specialist and general audience, the collection is broadly chronological in its focus, beginning with the consolidation of the movement since its beginnings in the 1650s and ending with the outlook of the movement in 1723 with the death of George Whitehead, ‘the last of the first Friends’ (p. 308). The volume is comprised of thirteen chapters, the majority of which have been authored by Allen and Moore, with specialist contributions from other scholars interspersed throughout. There is also a useful appendix providing a timeline of ‘significant Quaker events’ and ‘significant historical events’ (pp. 313–19). Each chapter makes a valiant attempt at integrating the history of English Quakerism with material about the Quaker communities in Scotland, Ireland, British North America, the West Indies and Europe, and also includes extensive discussions about the Quakers ‘in relation to the society in which they lived’ (p. 5). The experiences of early Quaker women and specific local studies are not singled out for discussion in separate chapters but, instead, are seamlessly interwoven into the wider narrative of the movement’s evolution and development across Europe and the British Atlantic.
Chapters 1 and 2, by Rosemary Moore and Richard Allen respectively, offer an accessible introduction to the first years of Quakerism and its international missionary development. Both authors are attentive to the issue of chronology and stress that the shift from first- to second-generation Quakerism is not a story of linear progression and its character did not fundamentally alter with the return of the monarchy in 1660. In Chapter 2 the challenging encounters of the early Quaker preachers are coherently woven into a narrative about Quaker westward and eastward expansion, covering the different corners of Britain and the Channel Islands, the West Indies, North America, Europe and the wider world. Rosemary Moore’s chapter on the development of Quaker organisation in Chapter 3 delineates the complex organisational structure of the Quaker meeting system with coherence and precision.
The next chapter by Richard Allen, ‘Living as a Quaker During the Second Period’, provides a change of pace. The discussion aims to show that Friends were ‘governed by an increasingly centralized code that regulated their behavior’ (p. 97). The main focus is thus on how Friends negotiated the movement’s often rigid testimonies within their daily lives. The next chapter, also authored by Allen, provides another ambitious yet thorough discussion of the development of Quakerism in Europe and the Americas between 1666 and 1682. In a manner similar to Chapter 2, Allen integrates a range of material on the history of Friends from across Europe and the Atlantic world, which makes an important contribution to our understanding of the different regional complexities informing the early history of the movement.
‘Quakers and Dissenters in Dispute’ is the focus of Raymond Brown and Alan P. F. Sell’s chapter in the collection. It provides an innovative exploration to the much under-researched topic of the Quakers’ relationship with other dissenters and dissenting groups. It stresses the theological and practical significance of the public disputations that took place between the Quakers and Baptists between 1672 and 1674 in consolidating their messages and encouraging group unity. Chapter 7, by Rosemary Moore, offers a coherent analysis of Quaker beliefs before the death of George Fox in the 1690s; and George Southcombe’s chapter on ‘The Quakers and Politics, 1660–1689’ is successful in assessing the major political events of the Restoration period alongside the actions and writings of leading Quakers. Chapter 9, by J. William Frost, continues the theme of Quaker relations with the wider world by focusing on the ways in which the Quakers chose to accommodate and prove their loyalty to the new government under William and Mary. Much of the chapter is focused on the consolidation of Quakerism in colonial Pennsylvania, with particular emphasis on the causes and consequences of the Keithian schism in the 1690s. Like Southcombe, Frost argues that there is no sense from the surviving reports and minutes that this was a movement in decline. Indeed, it continued to have strength and political significance in the aftermath of the 1689 Toleration Act.
As the first Quaker leaders began to die out, the movement was forced to confront a series of ideological questions about its future in the absence of those charismatic first publishers of Truth. Among them was the question of ‘how would the truth discovered by the seventeenth-century visionaries be transmitted to a new generation’ (p. 218)? This issue forms the central focus of Emma Lapsansky-Werner’s excellent chapter on Quaker life and communities on the eve of the eighteenth century. Chapter 11 on ‘The Quakers and Business’, by Richard Allen and Rosemary Moore, offers interesting insights into the less well-known reasons for the financial success of some of the early Friends. Erin Bell’s chapter ‘The Quakers and the Law’ follows a similar trajectory and considers the impact of persecution on the evolution of the early Quaker community, the role of the Meeting for Sufferings in solidifying Quaker testimonies and the implications of the 1689 Toleration Act on Friends. The volume closes with an important chapter by Robyn Rogers-Healey on the Quaker movement in the eighteenth century. It stresses the need to revise the traditional image of eighteenth-century Quakerism as static, and to see quietism as not simply a retreat from mainstream society but providing a culture in which Quakers ‘actively engaged in worldly concerns that affected the well-being of the society’ (p. 288). By foregrounding the tensions between Quaker principles and individual experience, Rogers Healey argues that ‘quietism’ ensured the survival of the movement over the next century by encouraging those Friends caught in ‘the snares of the world’ to return to the experience of the early days (p. 295).
The second period of Quakerism was far from mundane, and the volume is entirely successful in demonstrating how this was a ‘dynamic and responsive’ moment in the movement’s early history (p. 312). It expertly showcases a range of important research and is alert to the complexities, nuances and tensions of talking about this group of disparate and geographically dispersed believers as a single entity. The issue of unity is a recurring theme throughout the chapters, and by paying attention to the ambiguities and tensions inherent in Quaker doctrine and discourse the book avoids presenting a teleological narrative about the rise and subsequent decline of the early Quaker mission.
The scope of the volume is ambitious, and while the editors recognise that the relatively short length of the volume will naturally result in omissions (p. 7), most of the chapters are successful in adopting an approach that looks beyond both the ‘great men’ of Quaker history and the English context of the movement. At times this approach is not always as successful as it could be, and there are places where the focus on regional case studies makes the discussion feel a little unbalanced. In Chapter 5, for example, a great deal of attention is paid to the developments of Quakerism in the Netherlands and in the Caribbean, but the origins of the Quaker colony in Pennsylvania and the individuals who made up the majority of the early settlers is almost completely absent from the discussion and never fully addressed elsewhere in the volume. Similarly, the chapters on the Quaker meetings, business and the law tend to focus on the experiences of English Friends rather than the international community more widely, which would have added some important points of comparison. Moreover, while the importance of women in the history of the early movement is frequently acknowledged, there are only sporadic references to the domestic situation of Friends and life within the Quaker household. Despite these imbalances, there is no doubt that the collection is entirely successful in its aim to ‘awaken interest and to suggest topics for further investigation’ (p. 7) in this overlooked period of Quaker history. It is well-written and authoritative in its conclusions and will thus be a valuable resource for future generations of students and researchers of early Quaker history.
Priya Satia, Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution (New York: Penguin Press, 2018), pp. xiv + 528. ISBN 9780735221864. Hardback, £30.
Priya Satia tells the story of British guns from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. Using the example of the Birmingham-based Galton firm, Britain’s largest arms manufacturer during much of this period, she traces the development of the gun industry and shows how the use and meaning of guns changed over time.
She makes three key points: first, the state drove the Industrial Revolution by demanding arms for its perpetual warfare during the eighteenth century. It intervened heavily in the production of guns, both out of fear of rebels being armed and to ensure it had enough arms for its many wars. Spill-over effects from this industry influenced other sectors of the economy, and thus ‘war made the industrial revolution’ (p. 2). The state withdrew from the arms industry only after 1815 and its earlier, central role in the sector was forgotten.
Second, the ‘social life’ of guns changed in the late eighteenth century. Earlier, guns had multiple uses and meanings. People in Britain and her colonies used them as currency and for representational purposes—only very rarely, however, for interpersonal violence. This changed as the ‘middling sort’ established themselves as the dominant force within British society. Guns allowed gentlemen to fight coolly, without requiring physical contact with their opponent, thereby making the perfect weapon for emotionally restrained, polite society. They were increasingly employed in conflicts over what middling people valued most: private property.
Third, the author tries to explain the Religious Society of Friends’ policy towards the gun industry during the eighteenth century. The Galtons were Quakers, and ran their firm, which was not only Britain’s largest arms manufacturer but also the primary supplier for the African slave trade, for four generations without any objection from the Society. Only in 1795 was then proprietor Samuel Galton Jr. disowned. Satia argues that this was due to the changed meaning of guns in this time. Guns’ previous, complex uses meant that their production did not constitute a violation of the Quaker peace testimony. This changed with their increased use for interpersonal violence towards the end of the eighteenth century. It was only then that the arms trade became intolerable to the Society of Friends, and it disowned Galton.
Satia’s argument regarding the changing meaning and use of guns and how this came about is fascinating. Her point about the state’s crucial role in fostering the arms industry’s development I find equally convincing. However, the argument that the state played an important role for industrialisation is not as new as the book suggests; the author simply does not engage with the literature on the role of the state in industrialisation and economic development in Britain.
For readers of this journal probably of the greatest interest is the story of the Galton gun business and Samuel Galton Jr.’s ostracism from the Religious Society of Friends. Satia explains this by arguing that, as the uses of guns changed, they were transformed into a product at odds with Friends’ peace testimony. While largely convincing, this explanation faces certain limitations. Much of the scholarship on Quaker history that the book draws upon is older and partly outdated. The text does not engage with the development of the Peace Testimony. This underwent important transformations in the course of the eighteenth century, and held a more central role for Quaker beliefs at the end of the eighteenth century than it did at its beginning. Nor does the author consider the Society’s changing policy towards disownment. Quaker meetings were far more likely to disown members at the end of the eighteenth century than before. These factors are likely to have played a role in Galton’s fate, and the Quaker history angle of the book would have benefited from considering them.
These aspects aside, Empire of Guns constitutes a welcome addition to the historiography of the long eighteenth century by telling the story of the emerging economic power and empire from an entirely new angle. Moreover, its depiction of Galton and his associates as central to the arms industry and slave trade, rather than primarily as Friends, contributes to an understanding of early modern Quakers within their social, economic and cultural context.
Nicholas Burton and Richard Turnbull (eds), Quakers, Business, and Corporate Responsibility: Lessons and Cases for Responsible Management (Cham: Springer, 2019), pp. vi + 185. ISBN 9783030040338. Hardback, €103.99.
Nicholas Burton and Richard Turnbull’s edited volume Quakers, Business and Corporate Responsibility has as its purpose to explain ‘the Quaker ethic in business and commerce in the UK throughout the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries’, and from this ‘the insights for responsible business practice that may interest contemporary scholars and practitioners’ (p. 1). It succeeds in providing new approaches to the analysis of Quaker business history.
Quakers, Business and Corporate Responsibility is divided into three parts. Part I is entitled ‘The Spirit of Quaker Responsible Business’, Part II ‘An Uneasy Relationship with the State’ and Part III ‘Complicated Quakers’. These sections and their chapters are introduced by Burton and Turnbull, with the exception of Donncha Kavanagh and Martin Brigham’s chapter ‘The Quakers and the Joint Stock Company: Uneasy Bedfellows’. This oversight makes it somewhat difficult for a reader to fully prioritise their reading by chapter from the introduction, should they wish to do so.
Three of the chapters focus largely on Cadbury’s or George Cadbury. None of the other chapters focus on a particular firm. While much of the work on Cadbury’s here is informative, it is disappointing that no other businesses are highlighted, and means that the volume might not appeal to as broad an audience as possible. The other Quaker business figure (besides John Bellers) to feature is John Bright, who is assessed by Mike King and Richard Turnbull and who, for King, provides a contrast to George Cadbury.
Georgeann Lamont’s chapter in Part I ‘Transforming Contemporary Businesses: The Impact of Quaker Principles and Insights on Business in a Volatile World’, is a passionately written argument for the power of a set of twelve Quaker values to transform businesses written out of the Lamont’s own experience transforming workplaces through training. It is not an academic piece of writing, with little evidence and referencing outside of two testimonies from managers, but has value for Quakers in business.
John Kimberley’s chapter, ‘Towards a Set of Quaker Business Values’, critiques Michael Rowlinson’s analysis of the driving factor behind the Cadbury’s philosophy. Rowlinson’s work suggests that Quakerism was not what drove the philosophy. Kimberley (and indeed other academics, including Andrew Fincham here) takes exception to this. Many of Kimberley’s criticisms are well argued and some are clearly beyond dispute. Others are weaker, but the critique overall has merit. However, Rowlinson is not mentioned in Kimberley’s conclusion, where he proposes a set of values for business taken from George Fox’s writings. While these proposals are made with reference to Cadbury’s, had they been given more space and justification Kimberley’s case would have been further strengthened.
Andrew Fincham’s chapter, ‘Cadbury’s Ethics and the Spirit of Corporate Social Responsibility’, also in the first part of the volume, draws together models of business ethics and organisation. It uses James Meakin’s Model Factories and Villages (1905) to assess Cadbury’s in terms of corporate social responsibility in an innovative and interesting way, which provokes thoughts on issues of ethics and corporate governance for practitioners today. While the evidence Fincham draws together from Meakin and the models has considerable value, and tentatively supports his conclusion that Cadbury sought to maximise economic performance secondarily to corporate responsibility and delivering stakeholder returns, this conclusion could be honed to strengthen his point.
The first chapter in the second part of the book is Karen Tibbals’ ‘Quaker Employer Conference of 1918’. This chapter is one of the most accessibly written in the volume, as it features short, clearly titled subsections covering the periods before and after the conference, as well as providing an analysis, conclusion and bullet-pointed lessons for the future (the latter offering business people action points). The background information given is thorough, and Tibbals makes good use of other scholars’ work to consider changes in business success around the conference. The chapter is generally well-evidenced, with the occasional exception. Despite these exceptions, Tibbals’ analysis and conclusions are largely well argued, and her use of other theory about change and success is helpful.
In asking many questions Mike King’s chapter, ‘Honey I Shrunk the State’, is a helpful prompt to encourage the Quaker reader to think about the economic and political systems framing and informing Quaker approaches to business, and what the interaction between business and state might look like, and fits well within the theme of its part, on the relationship with the state. King’s outlines of Bright and Cadbury’s backgrounds and philosophy are engaging. The chapter is made more accessible and easier to read by being divided into subsections. However, King’s assumption that Left and Right can be divided along big state/small state lines feels simplistic. While to an extent King sets up his chapter by aligning George Cadbury with Karl Marx and John Bright with Milton Friedman, I was relieved to find that he does nuance this and acknowledge, for example, that Cadbury’s ‘paternalistic socialism had little in common with Marxist socialism’ (p. 81). It seems problematic that King does not refer to Marx directly, when his writing is central to the premise of this chapter. It is further problematic that he arguably misunderstands the Marxist theory of the state.
‘Quakers, Free Trade and Social Responsibility’, by Richard Turnbull, is one of the most nuanced and academically rigorous chapters in the volume in terms of evidence for statistics and claims. Turnbull discusses the potential conflict between John Bright’s belief in free trade and social responsibility in business. His grounding of a Quaker belief in free trade in the broader context of religious liberty, particularly earlier in Quaker history, is enlightening in seeking to explain those views.
Donncha Kavanagh and Martin Brigham’s chapter, ‘The Quakers and the Joint Stock Company: Uneasy Bedfellows’, is similarly nuanced and rigorous. It explains changes in nineteenth-century company law and suggests some reasons why these might have contributed to Quaker business decline, while also acknowledging that this was more complex than single issue. It also offers something to Quaker practitioners in tentatively suggesting that they consider other forms of business organisation than the limited liability company.
Sue Kozel’s chapter ‘Thomas Jefferson’s Complicated Friends’ is a nuanced study looking at documentary evidence of interactions between five individual Quakers and the eighteenth-century American president Thomas Jefferson. It is well referenced, thorough and thought-provoking in considering the complications of Quaker abolitionist ethics in relations with Jefferson.
Paul N. Anderson writes ‘John Bellers (1654–1725): “A Veritable Phenomenon in the History of Political Economy”’, the final chapter, which argues that Bellers’ proposals for a ‘College of Industry’ need to be set in the broader context of his thought and cannot be detached from his Christian Quaker grounding. While the chapter is well referenced and contains considerable detail, and therefore merits reading, it is not easy to follow Anderson’s argument through this and at times his purpose feels obscure.
Overall, this volume is certainly worth a look for those interested in Quakers and business. It contributes much to the questions around corporate social responsibility for Quaker and other ethically minded business people. This book is also certainly worth the attention of academics in the fields of business, management, business ethics and business history. However, while some chapters are academically excellent, others are slightly less rigorous; caution should be exercised by readers in places.
Allison Hepler, McCarthyism in the Suburbs: Quakers, Communists, and the Children’s Librarian (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018), p. x + 192. ISBN 9781498569392. Hardback, $90.
Allison Hepler’s McCarthyism in the Suburbs focusses on the quiet persistence and professionalism of Mary Knowles, a suburban librarian swept up in an ideological storm in Cold War America. This particular storm surrounded Knowles’ appointment as librarian in 1953 at Plymouth Meeting, a suburb outside of Philadelphia named after the local Quaker Meeting. Since Knowles had historic involvement in the Communist Party—and had also worked at a Communist-funded school in Boston—her role as librarian in Plymouth Meeting led to a local sensation that tested friendships and values within the community and also the relation of this community to the national politics of McCarthy-era America.
One of the most fascinating features of the book—though not drawn out explicitly enough—is the juxtaposition between the American Constitution and Quaker practice as sites of doctrinal crisis for individuals of conscience. In each case, the onset of McCarthyism prompted an encounter with and renegotiation of these value systems, a parallel history that Hepler is able to illuminate through the life of Knowles and her local community. Yet what separates this book from the expansive literature on McCarthyism should already be clear: the setting for this history is not the hubbub of the inner city or Washington D.C., but the uneasy hush of the suburb; its subject is not a figure of fame or power, but a humble librarian. To this end, the book is the story of how ‘ordinary citizens’—insofar as Knowles can be regarded as such—were able to prevail in and triumph over a climate of oppression.
A woman such as Knowles was able to do so not out of the ideological zealotry that marked the behaviour of her persecutors, but out of a moral sense of what it meant to be American: one that was rooted in the ideals of the Constitution and Quakerism. Indeed, it was through Quakerism that Knowles and Friends were able to articulate what it meant to be American in the Cold War. This fed into the defence of American constitutional, political and religious freedoms that were embodied in Plymouth Meeting as a community and helped to ensure its survival. For every high-profile celebrity or politician hounded down by the House Un-American Activities Committee, there must have been a myriad of Knowleses in the suburbs, and it is the overlooked significance of this ubiquity that makes this book a worthwhile contribution.
In focussing so closely on Mary Knowles, however, the book can suffer from a lack of perspective. A series of promising themes that Hepler introduces— anti-racism, gender, locality—are in the end largely incidental to a narrative driven by the life of Knowles. While these themes are partially developed, it cannot be said that they form a systematic part of the interpretation. For the most part the book is biographical, and references to the role of gender and women’s activism, for example, appear as a diversion from this main thread. The biographical style of the book also encourages the author to over-indulge in minor details that for most readers will border on tedium. Of course, such level of detail should not necessarily be criticised—rather that than the converse—but it can also be unevenly applied. For example, despite learning about the political significance of Knowles’ first husband, Clive, in the first chapter, he does not warrant mention again until a cursory reference to his and Mary’s divorce. Hepler may have regarded such territory as off-limits, but a divorce in the context of 1950s suburban America surely would have shaped perceptions of Knowles as a potential subversive. It would have also provided an opportunity to explore a more personal dimension to Knowles’ feminism and independent-mindedness. This points towards a deeper shortcoming in the book. Hepler has a tendency to follow and perpetuate the logic of the archives, fetishising the details provided, but failing to adequately interrogate the gaps and silences.
This archive-led approach in the book tends to smother the big issues and questions. The individual chapters are each packed with primary research from the archives, but they are also rather relentless, plunging into the source material from the outset and concluding without pause for reflection. In this respect, the voice of the author is subsumed—Hepler constantly defers to the inertia of an archive-structured narrative. The reasons for this are unclear, but the reverent tone of the book suggests that Hepler’s motivation for writing the book was partly in tribute to the life of Knowles, and the hagiography is clear in places. For the reader with wider interests in Cold War America this can be disappointing. The book would have benefited, for example, from an initial engagement with the historiography of McCarthyism. It may be a well-known history, but a summary of the major debates and research developments would have brought far more shine to Hepler’s own contribution.
Despite these shortcomings, Hepler’s book remains useful reading for students of McCarthyism—particularly those seeking an insight into its local, gendered and religious dynamics. While the role of suburbia and women’s activism could have been further developed, this rigorously researched book lays a strong foundation in these areas. For those in the field of Quaker Studies, the book provides a valuable insight into the ideological challenges and constellations of American Quakers in the Cold War, particularly as they played out among community-minded figures in local, suburban settings.
Michael Birkel, Quakers Reading Mystics (Leiden: Brill, 2018), pp. 124. ISBN-10: 9004372296. Paperback, £62.00.
C. Wess Daniels, Robynne Rogers Healey, Jon R. Kershner, Stephen W. Angell and Pink Dandelion, Quaker Studies: An Overview of the Field (Leiden: Brill, 2018), pp. 120. ISBN-10: 9004365060. Paperback, £62.00.
Rhiannon Grant, British Quakers and Religious Language (Leiden: Brill, 2018), pp. 104. ISBN-10: 9004378707. Paperback, £62.00.
Jon R. Kershner, ‘To Renew the Covenant’: Religious Themes in Eighteenth-Century Quaker Abolitionism (Leiden: Brill, 2018), pp. 124. ISBN-10: 9004372687. Paperback, £62.00.
Brill’s Research Perspectives in Quaker Studies is an ambitious series of contributions to the burgeoning areas of Quaker historiography, theology and cultural analysis. In the first overview volume—C. Wess Daniels, Robynne Rogers Healey, Jon R. Kershner, Stephen W. Angell and Pink Dandelion’s Quaker Studies: An Overview of the Field—readers are introduced to the radically liquid image of the Quaker as preacher, prophet, mystic, industrialist and social rebel. As the opening volume suggests, Quakerism is not found but made. Its character is defined as much by the methods of study used to characterise it as it is by historical facts. As Healey helpfully observes, the very act of remembering the Quaker past has been framed by theological interpretations (p. 13). Some of these depictions have been unashamedly modernistic and outward facing, while others have clung doggedly to an image of primitive Quaker purity (p. 17). In both cases, these renderings have been drawn from the language, images and implications of the earliest Quaker symbology and speech. The deepest tensions between Quakerism(s) have thus been characterised by vexing questions concerning the Quaker past. Such an acknowledgement has profound implications for the character and future of Quaker Studies. To analyse Quaker words, communities and structures is to navigate competing theological, cultural and ideological realities, intimately bound up with the motives and anxieties of the interpreters. As Daniels suggests:
To be a Quaker scholar means working in service to a larger story, not simply looking for a unique contribution or further develop one’s academic acumen. For those who identify as Quaker scholars, they must continue to ask themselves how they are using their research, to what end, in what ways might these … tools and approaches push the Quaker tradition forward into the future. They are not disinterested researchers but invested apprentices. (p. 105)
If participants in Quaker Studies are apprentices, what tools do they need to labour effectively in the scholarly workshop? One possible answer is offered in the second volume, Michael Birkel’s Quakers Reading Mysticism. Since the publication of William James’ 1902 study Varieties of Religious Experience,1 the category of ‘mysticism’ has been widely recognised as a rich conceptual framework for grouping together diverse theological and religious traditions. Yet, instead of taking Quakers into a realm of ethereal abstracts, Birkel illustrates how Quaker engagements with a coterie of medieval and early modern contemplative writers have served to both clarify core Quaker commitments and render Friends radically hospitable to other religions. In a richly layered discussion of Robert Barclay’s exposure to the thought of the Latin contemplative Cassian, Birkel illustrates how early Quaker theology was able to conceive of itself as via universalis, a faith beyond the bounds of sect or faction. This allowed Quakerism not merely to hone its primary theological language of peace but also to cross a whole series of cultural boundaries difficult for other Christian communities to traverse. If such mystic approaches have the capacity to anchor Quakerism in a generous universality, they also pose some disruptive possibilities for the treatment of the all-important Quaker past. Among them is the possibility that a Quakerism of the mystics is no longer bound to the language of Biblical Protestantism that had brought it into being. In this post-Christian mode, Quaker worship is self-consciously reconfigured as a space of radical diversity and dialogue, with a theological lexicon that is advisory rather than descriptive. Framed positively, this new flavour of Quaker definition can be said to allow for greater ‘interfaith understanding’ (p. 107). This option is expressed most vividly in this book’s extended discussion of the Quaker/Buddhist scholar Teresina Havens (1909–92). With her dual religious belonging, Havens reinterprets Quaker postulates through distinctly Japanese–Buddhist lenses. Familiar Quaker God metaphors such as ‘the Seed’ and ‘Light’ are given added interpretative potency as they mesh and meld with Buddhist metaphysics (p. 99). For Havens, affirming the value of religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue called for a profound reconfiguration of our ideas of religious belonging (p. 99). For one thing, Quaker Christians and Buddhists could worship together. Yet, as Birkel’s discussion illustrates, such a pluralistic refashioning of Quaker life raises the ongoing problem of authenticity and ownership.
If a core Quaker identity exists, what gives it coherence? This thorny question is compellingly explored in Rhiannon Grant’s book British Quakers and Religious Language. At the heart of Grant’s analysis is the compelling notion of Quakerism, not as a list of positions but as something akin to a language, with rules of grammar and syntax. Drawing constructively on the work of the theologian George Linbeck and the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, this volume suggests that a proper consideration of British Quaker God-talk will in turn generate an account of Quaker identity and belonging (p. 62). Yet, Grant argues that such an account is useful only if the interpreter is keenly attentive to the qualities of fluidity and multiplicity that constitute Liberal Quaker modes of self-understanding. Perhaps the most attractive feature of Grant’s study is its richly textured depiction of British Quakerism in the early twenty-first century. Such Friends speak in multiple spiritual accents, idioms and tongues, and yet find ways of worshipping and acting together. What explains such unity amid such radical multiplicity? Grant shows the reader the ways in which the notion of ‘spiritual diversity’ functions as a constructive value that permits Friends to both cherish shared spiritual experiences and permit considerable variation in beliefs and symbolic expression. Diversity not only constructs an umbrella under which an assortment of beliefs can shelter but also enables Quakers to make some significant theological statements about the nature of divine reality. If multiple names can be offered for the divine, a Quaker negative theology can take root which permits a harmonious coexistence of conceptions within a single religious community. Far from making Liberal Quaker identity fragile, Grant argues that such fluidity invites a generous hospitality based on one’s ‘fluency’ in speaking and acting Quaker (p. 85), and not on fixed theological statements. Quakerism, in this account, is not an immovable object but an ongoing task of doing, speaking and refining that is underpinned by a shared sense of Divine reality, which cannot be exhausted by any one image, definition or mode of speech. This draws us back into the value of universal ‘mysticism’, but with some new and important philosophical tools.
How, then, is something as complex and multifaceted as a ‘Quaker identity’ sustained over time? In The Human Condition Hannah Arendt argued that identity is constructed through the intermingling of action and speech. We know who we are, and what conceptions do useful ‘work’, once we are drawn out from solitary imagination into the shifting realm of public events.2 Nowhere is this conception of self-knowledge more applicable than in the case of Quakers and slavery. In ‘To Renew the Covenant’: Religious Themes in Eighteenth-Century Quaker Abolitionism Jon R. Kershner builds a compelling case that Quaker abolitionism was born not out of abstract theological debates but out of a grassroots effort that drew Quaker theological speech into dialogue with present conditions. In prophetic social action Quakers discovered, or perhaps rediscovered, who and what they were. In the opening discussion we are shown how early Quaker theology introduced radical possibilities into Christian grammar. Through an appeal to the universality of God’s Covenant with humanity, George Fox refuted the suggestion that the victims of colonial slavery were non-human, yet he did not refute the institution of slavery outright (p. 7). Instead, he reaffirmed Biblical models of temporary bond-servitude, while affirming the responsibility of owners towards their slaves. This ambiguity permitted later generations of Friends to marshal the Quaker past in ways that both supported and condemned the buying and selling of slaves (p. 11). But, as this volume shows, the language of Covenant sowed the seed of a radical contradiction between Quaker God-talk and social practice. At stake in the eighteenth-century slavery debates was the individual and corporate integrity of Quaker witness.
How could Friends speak of a universal covenant while fellow human beings remained enslaved (p. 101)? Through the lives of diverse American Quaker activists, Kershner charts the many protest and polemical methods intended to promote spiritual renewal. Key in this reinvigoration of Quakerism was the reframing of Friends’ community through the Scriptural motif of faithful suffering. By exaggerating this basic feature of Biblical covenantal logic, Kershner shows how the image of Quakers as ‘suffering people’ provided a compelling template for Friendly abolitionist rhetoric and action throughout the eighteenth century (p. 104). As expected, this harmonisation of speech and practice did more than forge consistency. It allowed Friends to assert agency as they campaigned for a world that accorded with Quaker principles. As Kershner puts it: ‘If Quakers had given up on the idea of converting the world to join Quakers, the religious themes within antislavery could at least convert the world to act Quaker’ (p. 87). The eighteenth-century Quaker desire to make sense of their past in the light of the present gave Friends a new impetus to act and a renewed energy to cross religious and cultural boundaries. It is this unruly craving to defy borders that unites this Brill series. To be a Quaker, whether past or present, involves a nomadic attitude that constantly calls into question the limits of religious community. For the Quaker scholar such a defiance of limits is an invitation continually to make a question of oneself and one’s community. The future of Quaker Studies rests principally not on innovations of method but on a willingness to keep revisiting who and what Friends are. In these repeated acts of reappraisal, Friends will serve the ongoing adventure of Quaker life, apprentices in a vibrant workshop.