The Oxford Biblical Studies Online and Oxford Islamic Studies Online have retired. Content you previously purchased on Oxford Biblical Studies Online or Oxford Islamic Studies Online has now moved to Oxford Reference, Oxford Handbooks Online, Oxford Scholarship Online, or What Everyone Needs to Know®. For information on how to continue to view articles visit the subscriber services page.

Related Content

Related Overviews

George Fox (1624—1691) a founder of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

William Penn (1644—1718) Quaker leader and founder of Pennsylvania


conscientious Objection

See all related overviews in Oxford Reference »


More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • History


Show Summary Details



Quick Reference

A Christian body that rejects the formal structures of creed and sacraments and usually of clergy and liturgy, emphasizing instead the individual's search for ‘inner light’. Founded by the Englishman George Fox in the 17th century, the Quakers became convinced that their ‘experimental’ discovery of God – sometimes featuring trembling or quaking experiences during meetings – would lead to the purification of all Christendom. The name ‘Quaker’ was originally a term of contempt but is now widely used.

By 1660 there were more than 20,000 converts, and missionaries were at work in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the American colonies. They continued to grow in number, despite severe penalization from 1662 to 1689 for refusing to take oaths, attend Anglican services, or pay tithes. After considerable debate, they evolved their present form of organization, with regular monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings.

In 1681 William Penn founded the American Quaker colony of Pennsylvania, and Quaker influence in the colony's politics remained paramount until the American War of Independence.

Subjects: History

Reference entries

View all reference entries »