A Quaker History



(An over-view of the Quaker movement from 1650 to 1990) by David M Murray-Rust, Birkenhead Meeting, UK 1995


My alternative title is adapted from that of a book on Calculus written by the eminent Quaker scientist, Silvanus Thompson, in 1910. It was called "Calculus made Easy" and was derived from lectures he gave to his Engineering students, whom he wished to interest in Mathematics as well as to instruct. He said that his learned critics would complain that he had made it easy simply by leaving out the difficult part; and he said "THAT THIS WAS QUITE TRUE". Still, he made no excuse about it for, as he said: "Any subject may be made repulsive by presenting it bristling with difficulties." This is true not only of Mathematics, but also of History, Theology, and much else... including Quakerism! So I propose to give you this "overview", leaving out the "difficult parts". In fact, I shall be leaving out a great deal, for there have been many good books written on the story and nature of Quakerism, to which anyone may refer, if they wish to read further and deeper.


Chapter 1. When, Why, and How Quakerism began.

A comment on the 17th Century as a time of revolutionary ideas and of "dissent".

Chapter 2. The Foundation Years (approx 1650 to 1690).

An extension, in general terms, of Chapter l. The sort of people the early Quakers were. The two periods: before and after the "Restoration" in 1660.

Chapter 3. Some Quaker people of the 17th Century.

The main idea of the chapter is to give some idea of the great diversity of people who were attracted to the Quaker movement. This is done by quite brief biographical accounts.

Chapter 4. The 18th Century.

Justification of dividing the study into centuries. Results of change from persecution to toleration. The cause of development of a "discipline". Outline of Quaker activities in industry and science. Life and influence of John Woolman.

Chapter 5. The 19th Century.

Impact of the 18th Century evangelical movement on Quakers; increased social activity. Quaker "separation" in America. Reaction to the new ideas in science and religion. The Manchester Conference of 1895.

Chapter 6. The 20th Century.

Increasing "Liberalisation" in the Society; growth of study (e.g. at Woodbrooke). Friends work overseas. The growth of "World Friends". Assessment of where Friends stand now and where they may be going.


David Murray-Rust, Birkenhead Meeting.

Address for correspondence: Friends Meeting House, 83, Park Road South, Birkenhead, Merseyside, UK

© David M Murray-Rust, 1995. This document may be freely copied and distributed so long as it is kept in its entirety, including this notice, and that no fee is charged.