Quaker Studies


Quaker Studies (2019), 24, (1), 1–3.



Welcome to this issue of Quaker Studies at a time when Quaker studies scholarship is in the ascendant. Major new publications, some reviewed in this issue, some in the next, include those on the second period of Quakerism from Richard Allen and Rosemary Moore (The Quakers 1656–1723: The Evolution of an Alternative Community, Penn State Press 2018) and on the lives and output of women Quakers from Michele Tarter and Catie Gill (New Critical Studies on Early Quaker Women 1650–1800, OUP 2018). Penn State Press is now committed to a series on a ‘new History of Quakerism’ comprising five volumes and a second volume from Oxford on Quaker women after 1800 is to be edited by Robynne Healey and Carole Spencer. These series sit alongside the new Brill series ‘Research Perspectives in Quakerism’, which produces four monographs a year, and a highly successful Quaker studies presence at last year’s American Academy of Religion. In June 2019 the 25th annual QSRA Quaker Studies conference will be held at Woodbrooke, Birmingham, England, and the Centre for Research in Quaker Studies, which is based there, will mark its twentieth anniversary. We hope that many of the fruits of that conference will appear in our own 25th anniversary volume in 2020.

This issue contains the 2018 George Richardson Lecture on William Penn given by Andrew R. Murphy. The George Richardson Lecture is the annual prestigious lecture in Quaker studies in Britain and is given by a scholar at professorial level on their most recent research. Andrew R. Murphy has been researching Penn for some time and the 300th anniversary of his death proved a particularly fitting time to reflect on Penn’s political career as part of Murphy’s research that has led to his new biography of Penn, William Penn: A Life (OUP 2018). In this article Murphy describes Penn as a ‘boundary spanner’, someone who functions to facilitate the flow of information within a group and between that group and those outside of it. Using this frame, Murphy then charts different contexts and modes of Penn’s political life, crossing constituencies in a highly effective and helpful way. Penn’s ability to straddle different camps both served the Quaker cause and undermined some of Penn’s greatest ambitions.

Unusually, the articles in the rest of this issue all concern the twentieth century. Joanna C. Dales compares contrasting Liberal Quaker theologies of Meeting for Worship, in particular those of American Quaker Howard Brinton and British renaissance Liberal John William Graham. Dales argues that, while both understood Quaker worship as essentially mystical, Graham’s theology can be placed as more puritan or primitive in his approach, in contrast to the more organic and creative understanding that was popularised in the later twentieth century by the likes of Brinton and George Gorman.

In tandem with Dales’ article, Helen Holt explores the humanism of one of the architects of modernist Quakerism, Rufus Jones. Jones’ humanism has been previously seen as sitting alongside his fundamental assertion that Quaker faith is best understood as collective mysticism, almost as a paradox. However, Holt argues here that Jones is never fully a humanist, in that he sees a divine element in all human action and that his humanism, such as it is, can be seen only in relation to his wider theistic beliefs and in partnership with them. It is wonderful that scholarly attention is now turning to twentieth-century Quakers and their theology.

Owain Gethin Evans’ article is part of an ongoing project to chart the Quaker dead of World War I and redress a history that tends to focus on conscientious objection, in its variety of expressions, as the normative Quaker response of the time. At least 30 per cent of eligible Quaker men enlisted and Evans charts through forensic analysis the different categories and counts of those who died, mainly at the front. Nobody before has looked in such detail at this important part of recent Quaker history.

Gemma Caballer’s article is on a Quaker project in 1940 to repopulate abandoned French villages in the south of France with those displaced from their homes in the north-east of France and some exiled Spanish families. The project was led by an exiled Catalan, Josep Maria Trias Peitx, who was appointed by the regional office of the American Friends Service Committee. Caballer’s work charts and details this under-researched episode in Quaker humanitarian aid and explores the challenges the project faced from both the French authorities’ wariness of ‘strangers’ and the tensions within an increasingly professionalised Quaker service agency. The article is an important contribution to the study of Quaker service in the twentieth century.

Since the 1990s there has been a growth in the sociological study of British Quakerism, but most of that work has focussed on the internal social dynamics of Quaker organisations, such as local Meeting life or Quaker identity construction in a group where belief is marginal and diverse. Mark J. Read’s work provides a notable and important departure from this, in that he explores Quaker identity in everyday life and, in particular, in the workplace. He uses interviews to explore the way in which individual Quaker agency is employed in the workplace to further Quaker values. His interviewees described how their work harmonised with their religious values, but Read also argues that this Quaker agency is regulated, policed and constrained by the employing organisation.

This issue ends with a selection of book reviews and my thanks go as usual to Rebecca Wynter, our indefatigable Reviews Editor.


Author details

Dandelion, ‘Ben’ Pink