2015 ESR graduate John Connell reviews the recent release, Early Quakers And Their Theological Thought, 1647-1723, co-edited by ESR's Stephen W. Angell and Pink Dandelion.
The introduction of this volume, penned by editors Pink Dandelion and Stephen W. Angell, wastes no time in reminding readers why this is an important work: “Early Quakerism has always excited scholars.” Indeed it has, and for good reason. Despite their fractured state, all groups of modern Quakers still look back to the early Friends to ground themselves in their own interpretation of Quakerism. In fact, early Friends have often been re-interpreted in different ways by subsequent generations in order to re-assure those later generations in their particular contemporary formulation of Quaker faith and practice. Thus, studies of early Friends are always sure to both inform and challenge modern Quakers as to their own interpretations and incarnations of the Society.
Early Quakers and Their Theological Thought, 1647-1723, is sure to inform and challenge both liberal and evangelical Friends alike to examine their current incarnations and perhaps thoughtfully consider the relationship they bear to the founding generation of this movement. There is much to recommend about this volume. The chapters are relatively short (under 20 pages), and yet jam-packed with details about each individual, and most importantly, copious snippets of their own words. There is no denying that the scholars involved are representative of the finest that Quaker Studies has to offer. The bibliography alone is worth having for its collected wealth of primary and secondary sources.
The challenge of any such project is to allow the subject of each profile to speak their own message clearly, without being obscured by the interpretive voice of the authors. With few exceptions, this book succeeds in meeting this challenge. Because the book is a collection of profiles, written by different authors—each uniquely selected as a qualified authority on their subject—this review will move through the book chapter by chapter.