The Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers, originated in England during the civil wars of the mid-seventeenth century. Early Quakers have been variously described as founders of a fundamentally new form of spiritual practice, as the radical end of the Protestant Reformation, and as political revolutionaries. In The Light in Their Consciences, which recounts the earliest history of the Friends in England, Rosemary Moore suggests that all of these characterizations are accurate and can help us grasp the true significance of Quakerism.
Moore offers compelling portraits of the leading figures of the Quaker movement, notably George Fox, James Nayler, and Margaret Fell. She shows their interrelationships and documents the emergence of George Fox as the leading Friend, relying not so much on Fox’s own proclamations as on the perceptions of both his followers and his enemies as reflected in correspondence and printed pamphlets. Moore also charts the growth of a genuine denominational consciousness among Friends. This leads her to continue her account past the customary stopping point of 1660—the Restoration of Charles II—up through 1666. It was in that year that Fox initiated major organizational reforms that signaled the true dividing line between the early charismatic Quaker movement and the introverted sect of the later seventeenth century.
The Light in Their Consciences combines a lively narrative with impeccable research. Moore draws upon unprecedented computer-based analysis of all the contemporary Quaker and anti-Quaker literature. Her account will interest historians, theologians, and members of the Society of Friends throughout the world.