The early Quaker movement in Staffordshire, 1651-1743 ; from open fellowship to closed sect
thesisposted on 15.12.2014, 10:44 by Denis G. Stuart
This study provides a history of the early years of the Quaker movement in Staffordshire. It takes cognizance of research into the history of the movement generally and discusses how far Quakerism in Staffordshire supports or challenges the conclusions of modern scholars. A preliminary chapter outlines the local scene and the political and religious background out of which Quakerism emerged. The work of George Fox and other Quaker preachers in the county between 1651 and 1660 is examined in detail, together with their itineraries and preaching methods. An explanation of the subsequent spread of the movement locally is offered. Special chapters deal with the 'sufferings' of local Quakers for their defiance of the anti-dissent laws, their occupations, numbers, organisation, burial grounds and meeting houses. The history of each of the two monthly meetings in the county, is outlined and there is a chapter on local Quaker literacy. The development of Quakerism in Staffordshire is seen as the transformation of what was originally an open and informal movement into a closed and disciplined sect. The causes of this change are explained as the result of persecution and the need to control the individualistic interpretation of the 'Inward Light', the basic Quaker belief, if the movement was to survive. The sharp decline in the numbers of Friends is seen as the result of the effects of death, departure and disownment from what had become an endogamous sect, compounded by the abandonment of all efforts at local proselytisation.;The main primary sources used are the local Quaker archives in the Stafford County Record Office plus other material in the Friends' House Library in London and in Woodbrooke College, Birmingham. The main methodology was the use as a database of about 500 mini-biographies of early Staffordshire Quakers.