Richard Godbeer, World of Trouble: a Philadelphia Quaker family’s journey through the American Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019), pp. ix + 460. ISBN 9780300219982. Hardback, £30.
There is a fairy tale spun about the American Revolution—virtuous patriots threw off the oppression of a mother country intent on denying their political and economic liberty. The story of Henry and Elizabeth Drinker is not that story. Instead, with their faith as a filter, the Drinkers’ story starkly reveals how individualised the Revolution truly was and how one family struggled to survive it.
The Drinkers will be familiar to anyone knowledgeable of eighteenth-century Philadelphia. Elizabeth’s extensive diaries (spanning from 1758 to 1807), Henry’s business ledgers and their massive body of widely networked correspondence have provided historians invaluable insight into a critical period in American history. Using these rich sources, Richard Godbeer’s World of Trouble immerses us in the daily life of a Quaker couple trying to navigate a world that, at times, was dissolving around them. Written as a joint biography, the narrative moves chronologically from the couple’s courtship through marriage until their deaths, the poignant details of their lives painting a unique picture of the revolutionary era. The result is a moving account of love, terror, exile, grief and the challenges of staying true to one’s faith, and will appeal to scholars, undergraduates and a general audience. This microhistory focusses on several themes that readers will find compelling: family history, the Revolution from a pacifist perspective and Quakerism.
At its heart, this is a book about family. Historians rarely have such complete sources from both halves of a married couple to shed light on their daily domestic world. Godbeer lovingly recreates this world from 1759 to Henry’s death in 1809 (Elizabeth died in 1807), giving us an intimate view of an eighteenth-century marriage and family. The Drinkers clearly had a romantic and companionate relationship and Henry’s absences from the household were difficult for them both. Elizabeth’s unmarried sister lived with the couple from their marriage in 1761 until Henry’s death and provided domestic assistance, as did the many servants who came through the household. Godbeer devotes an entire chapter to household management, which reveals an incredibly conflictual relationship between masters and servants during a period of change. At the centre of the Drinkers’ household were their children. Elizabeth had at least 11 pregnancies and bore nine, four of whom died in infancy. Both parents worried over ill health, knowing too well that children could easily succumb to seemingly insignificant symptoms. During Henry’s absences he frequently wrote letters advising how his children ought to comport themselves in their secular and religious lives. In their waning years both Drinkers struggled to come to terms with choices their adult children made and were forced to watch as their oldest daughter succumbed painfully to cancer.
The tenuous safety of their family became even more precarious when the American Revolution came to Philadelphia. Godbeer offers an intimate look at the Revolution from the perspective of pacifists struggling to remain neutral, complicated by Henry’s mercantile business. To Philadelphia’s Quaker merchants, the Stamp Act (1765) and Tea Act (1773) looked very different than to the patriots. How were these pacifists to comply with British laws, avoid angering the patriots and still maintain their livelihood? Henry and his business partner, Able James, struggled but ultimately failed to succeed in this matter. ‘They understood their “country” to be neither Pennsylvania, nor the colonies in general, nor England, but rather a comprehensive transatlantic community’ (p. 118). Such a perspective was not shared by their patriot neighbours, who assumed that neutrality was secret support of the British. Suspicion led to Henry, among other Quakers, being arrested and exiled to Virginia in 1777, leaving Elizabeth and her sister to weather British-occupied Philadelphia alone. The women navigated food shortages, seized goods, property destruction, drunken and violent soldiers and a British officer quartered in their home, all while relying only on sporadic letters to assure them of Henry’s health and safety. After seven months a group of the exiles’ wives, including Elizabeth, travelled to petition General Washington successfully for their husbands’ release. Yet, even with Henry home the family still watched in horror as patriots hanged two Quakers for treason and as Quaker properties were seized and vandalised.
Godbeer’s narrative of the Revolution highlights the trials Quakers faced during the last half of the eighteenth century. Frequently, they sought a middle ground that did not exist. Henry struggled to find a way to uphold his pacifist principles without causing economic hardship for his family. He worried about balancing the conspicuous consumption that was expected of urban gentility while still adhering to Quaker tenets of simplicity. Post-exile, Henry dedicated himself to becoming the moral centre of his religious community, but failed to implement successfully his plan to supplant slave-produced Caribbean sugar with maple sugar, hoping to hasten slavery’s end. After the Revolution Henry became a leading member of the Great Reform movement in Philadelphia, tightening the code of discipline that governed Quakers. Henry’s commitment to strict Quaker practices caused discord in the family, which was exacerbated whenever the Drinker children made choices contrary to Quaker expectations; their oldest son never married and their youngest daughter eloped in 1796. Another son moved to a farm in the Pennsylvania countryside, then ultimately went to sea, to escape the ‘unhappiness’ that his father had spread ‘throughout all our family’, particularly by discouraging his sons from doing anything to improve themselves and risk them becoming ‘unquakered’ (p. 313).
The Drinker family survived the Revolution, but the resulting economic and social changes were unavoidable. Henry never re-entered the mercantile world and his business ventures thereafter largely failed. Elizabeth lamented servants who no longer conformed to her idea of deference or gratitude and seemed unable to forgive patriot atrocities. Both struggled to make peace with children who did not conform to their parents’ ideals. Family and faith dictated how the Drinkers navigated the ‘world of trouble’ that came to their doorstep. Late in her life, Elizabeth wrote that she hoped she would be able ‘to bear all that kind Providence thinks proper to suffer or permit’ (p. 323). In Godbeer’s deft hands, their trials and successes both enrich our understanding of the Revolution and weave a compassionate, heart-breaking family drama.
Donald Ingram Ulin (ed.), Writing Home: a Quaker Immigrant on the Ohio Frontier—The letters of Emma Botham Alderson (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2021), pp. vvii + 526. ISBN 9781684481965. Hardback, $160.
This book offers a compilation of the extant letters of Emma Botham Alderson penned between 1842, when she emigrated from Britain to Ohio with her immediate family, and 1847, when she died aged 41. It is edited with thorough introductory sections by Donald Ulin. Alderson was the sister of Mary Howitt, the celebrated writer, who used the letters for her volume Our Cousins in Ohio—however, the value of this collection is not in who wrote them, but in the detailed view they give us of emigration and immigration, of the creation of a new identity in a new land, of the political and social context of the USA in the 1840s from an outsider’s perspective and of the dynamics of Quaker identity during that first century of major schisms.
Emigration from Britain reached a new high in the 1840s, such were the financial hardships facing many. The Aldersons were not forced abroad by poverty and were able to purchase a farm on already cleared land, but, after a variety of different occupations in Britain, grasped the opportunity of a more enduring and stable life abroad.
The letters are a wonderful window into Alderson’s experiences. They talk of relations within the family group, which included a difficult relationship with her sister-in-law, of travel on a temperance ship and then by boat and canal, of botany, of the joy of seeing her sister’s books on sale, of reaching Ohio. Ulin has divided them into three parts: the initial travel and their first winter in the USA; life at their new home Cedar Lodge; and ‘The Final Years’.
Often they read like a diary, chronicling the daily events, such as Emma’s husband’s foray into glazing, or an unusual plant she had seen, or the visit of a friend. At other moments they are a travelogue, mentioning particular items of interest to her reader. They are a full and wonderful insight into the sights Alderson sees and the places she travels through, as well as the wider events happening around her family. Ulin has done us a great service by so faithfully transcribing the collection and helping interpret them for us.
Indeed, the editorial sections are tremendously insightful and valuable. Ulin has completed a lot of research about all manner of aspects of Alderson’s life and context. Naturally enough there are details and statistics on emigration, on the nature of letter writing in the 1840s and on the postal service. But there is also background on the particular aspects of Alderson’s experiences: the history of the railway connection that transported canal boats across the Alleghany mountains between branches of the Pennsylvania canal that ran between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh is fascinating.
Ulin unfortunately follows the trend of using the term ‘inner light’ anachronistically to describe the theology of Quakers who would never have used the term, and his description of Wilbur as a ‘Conservative’ may also be seen to be anachronistic. Additionally, it was not only ‘conservatives’ who were wary of working with non-Quakers, as might be suggested by one sentence (p. 9). More unfortunate is the British geographical slip, placing Blackburn on the outskirts of Lancaster (p. 17). These are small errors, but naturally raise caution about areas that need to be taken on trust by the non-expert reader. Ulin is on stronger ground in his editorials on what takes place in the USA, and his section on the schisms and Alderson’s navigation of the changing Quaker world (in Britain and in Ohio) is compelling reading. (Alderson became a Gurneyite, while other family members left Friends.)
It is nicely produced book and is usefully illustrated with pictures of family members and of the letters themselves. The appendices and index are thorough and it is a very complete volume in the best possible sense. It is an expensive book, but highly readable and a hugely valuable resource for those interested in the social history of the time, in mid nineteeth-century Quakerism, in travel writing and literary studies and in women’s experiences of emigration. The letters include insights into slavery, presidential elections and war with Mexico, as well as the dynamics of the life and relations of an extended family spread across different sides of the Atlantic, among other topics. I hope many libraries will buy a copy and recommend it to anyone with an interest in this period.
Nancy J. Thomas, A Long Walk, a Gradual Ascent: the story of the Bolivian Friends Church in its context of conflict (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2019), pp. xxx + 406. ISBN 9781532679759. Paperback, $45.00.
In 2017 Bolivia was home to 28,500 Friends. That is more Quakers than any other country in the western hemisphere except the United States, but Bolivia has mostly escaped serious scholarly attention until now. Nancy J. Thomas goes a long way to filling this huge gap in the literature with her in-depth portrait of one of Bolivia’s six yearly meetings, the Iglesia Nacional Evangélica de Los Amigos (INELA). Thomas gives loving and lavish treatment to the church’s history, including the cultural, theological, sociological and political background of INELA from its founding until 2017. We are indebted to Thomas and her binational team of researchers for this revealing and candid portrait.
INELA primarily serves Christians of the Aymara people, who live high on the altiplano in the Andean region. Harold R. Thomas, an anthropologist and the author’s spouse, contributes a chapter of cultural overview to the book. The Aymara constitute about 16 per cent of Bolivia’s population and, of these, some two-thirds can speak the Aymara language. These indigenous peoples were subject to the Incan empire prior to the Spanish one, so they have a long history of struggling against colonial oppression. Thomas informs us that the native Aymara religion believes in a multitude of spirits, but that over recent centuries many Aymara people have adopted Catholicism. However, ‘some aspects of the culture make Quaker Christianity appealing: these include participatory ways of decision-making, a horizontal model of leadership, and a focus on equality of gender and persons’ (p. 57).
The process of Quakerism coming to the Aymara was a complicated one. An evangelical Friend of Native American extraction, William Abel, preached the gospel in Bolivia before dying there of smallpox in 1919. He did not start a church, but one of his converts, Juan Ayllón, did start a church in the vicinity of Lake Titicaca in 1924 and received Christian converts. In the decade prior to 1924 some gifted spiritual leaders in the town of Amalcari preached against drunkenness and other customs hindering the Aymara people, and they have been understood in retrospect as forerunners of the Christian gospel that later came through Ayllón and other Quaker ministers.
Oregon (later Northwest) Yearly Meeting adopted Bolivia as a mission field in 1930 and sent its first of many missionaries the following year. INELA itself was established in 1952, and the process of indigenisation took many years and much discussion and even conflict. By 1974, Quakers throughout the world had recognised INELA as a yearly meeting. INELA in turn inaugurated its own mission efforts, evangelising among the Aymara people in Peru and in lowland Bolivia, as well as establishing a Friends Church in Buenos Aires. The Oregon mission was formally closed in 2002, but a variety of partnerships in activities, especially education, remain between Bolivian Friends and Friends in Northwest Yearly Meeting, as well as Friends in Britain Yearly Meeting, who established Quaker Bolivia Link in the 1990s, and Friends from a variety of meetings in the United States, who established the Bolivian Quaker Education Fund in the 2000s.
Thomas’s book presumes no prior knowledge of Bolivia on the part of its readers. The text covers the period from 1915 to 2017, with most of its 12 chapters each taking a different decade, and those chapters helpfully begin with a capsule description of Bolivian history during that time. The book is based on deep archival research, as well as extensive interviews with living Friends, so its mining of sources never before utilised by scholars is very impressive. The subtitle provides an important clue to much of the contents of the book: The Bolivian Friends Church has indeed existed for most of the past century in a ‘context of conflict’. This includes conflicts between North American missionaries and Aymara church members, among the North Americans themselves and between Aymara church members, as well as external conflicts in Bolivian society, including violent changes in the government, that have directly affected the Friends Church in various ways. Thomas is thorough in her coverage of all these bumps in INELA’s development while also making it clear that, in her view, the growth of Bolivian Friends has been the result of ‘the movement of the Spirit of God’ (p. xxx).
A highlight of the book is the numerous sensitive portraits of Bolivian Friends who have been important leaders in the Friends Church. These include Mariano Baptista, a convert from Aymara animism, who became chief pastor of the Friends Church in La Paz and later a church planter in the Bolivian jungle; Carmelo Aspi, a leading theological educator in INELA; Marcela Mamani, a reluctant yet popular and gifted leader in the women’s branch of the Friends Church (UFINELA), and also a missionary pastor to a fledgling church, who succumbed far too early to cancer; and many more. Such vivid and grace-filled stories add much depth to the book.
This is a model of what histories of indigenous Friends churches, recently arisen throughout the world, should look like. This eye-opening and thought-provoking book should be widely read by Friends and find a place in academic libraries also. This highly original labour of love provides us with an authoritative and indispensable window into a chapter of recent Quaker history that has been far too little known.
John Marshall, ‘Seventeenth-century Quakers, Emotions, and Egalitarianism. Sufferings, Oppression, Intolerance, and Slavery’, pp. 146-64, in Giovanni Tarantino and Charles Zika (eds), Feeling Exclusion: religious conflict, exile and emotions in early modern Europe (London and New York: Routledge, 2019), pp. 310. ISBN 9780367367060. Paperback, £34.99.
‘There is a saying, that we shall doe to all men, licke as we will be done our selves; macking no difference of what generation, descent or Colour they are’ (p. 157). This expression from the ‘Germantown Protest’ of 1688—along with a handful of other seventeenth-century Quaker writings—was groundbreaking in its opposition to slavery. John Marshall’s engaging chapter in Tarantino and Zika’s edited collection, Feeling Exclusion, links these unorthodox arguments to earlier Quaker experiences and beliefs, demonstrating the potential of ‘the seventeenth-century language of Quaker emotions and egalitarianism’ (p. 160) for opposing slavery.
In doing so, the piece is a welcome addition to the relatively limited but increasing amount of scholarship that tackles Quakers’ views on slavery during the seventeenth century, rather than the eighteenth. Indeed, by considering the germination of these ideas within their context, the challenges made to slavery by a small number of Quakers from the 1670s onwards are able to be understood on their own terms, rather than as mere oddities or preludes to the abolitionist views of the following century.
The first two-thirds of the chapter explores English Quakers’ responses to persecution in the 1650s and Restoration period in order to highlight recurring arguments and emotional themes in their writings. It is shown that Quakers’ views against religious persecution and in support of religious toleration were based on ideas of compassion, love, charity and fears of God’s wrath, as well as the Golden Rule: to do unto others what we would have others do unto us. A number of quotations from published Quaker works are provided to support each point, leaving the reader with a rich understanding of how these individuals themselves expressed the consolation they found in suffering, their hostility to hierarchy, love for enemies, pacifism and so on.
In the remainder of the chapter the few antislavery views that were expressed by Quakers in the seventeenth century are linked to the Quaker arguments and rhetoric outlined in the preceding section. Particular emphasis is placed on the Golden Rule and the ways this principle was used by such figures as George Fox, William Edmundsen and Robert Piles to criticise and, in some cases, denounce the slave trade and slave ownership. While other recent studies have largely focussed on the role of theology, politics, economics and exclusionism in the development of Quakers’ antislavery ideas, this discussion highlights the role of what Marshall terms their ‘language of emotions’ (p. 155), which had, in part, developed out of their own experiences of persecution. Given that existing scholarship tends to agree that no single belief, influence or event can account for the emergence of Quakers’ antislavery stance, consideration of how these emotional and egalitarian dimensions functioned alongside other influences and motivations would have been a valuable addition to the chapter. Moreover, a clearer sense of the methodology employed by Marshall would have been welcome—particularly regarding which precise aspects of the Quakers’ arguments he considers to be emotional, and how that conceptualisation is useful. Although outside the scope of this single chapter, future studies wishing to apply a history of emotions lens to Quakers’ relationship to slavery could also investigate those forces that slowed, rather than aided, this group’s moves towards abolitionism, and whether a language of emotion was also at play in their justifications.
Marshall’s chapter is one of 13 contributions to Giovanni Tarantino and Charles Zika’s edited collection, which is divided into three thematic parts: ‘Belonging and displacement’, ‘Coping with persecution and exile’ and ‘“Othering” Strategies’. The chapters explore different European communities (such as Huguenots, Calvinists and Jews) while utilising varied sources that bring not only language but also gesture and objects into the conversation. The first scholarly study to focus specifically on the emotion of early modern exclusion, the volume reveals what emotional frameworks and strategies were involved in victims’ efforts to cope with trauma, form resistance and understand their own persecution, as well as the intolerance and stereotypes of difference that had instigated that persecution.
Placed in Part 2 of the volume, Marshall’s chapter sparks interesting parallels and contrasts with other contributors’ discussions, particularly regarding the ways in which experiences of oppression and certain forms of language can lead to both exclusionist and unifying ideas. For example, by seeing in the contributions of Claire Walker, Giovanni Tarantino and Dolly MacKinnon that Christian frameworks (such as the language of sacrifice, performance of martyrdom and sharing of relics) tended to be used by victims to unite with their own co-religionists, the extension of similar Christian beliefs by some Quakers to demand the better treatment of other suffering groups, as examined in Marshall’s chapter, becomes all the more striking.
Indeed, the relationship between victims and victimisers, and how these roles can all too easily be reversed, is a crucial topic for the volume and is therefore eloquently discussed in its Afterword by Nicholas Terpstra. Demonstrating the role of wilful forgetting in that shift, Terpstra emphasises the power that fear of God’s wrath had in driving cycles of persecution across the early modern period. Looking to today, we may want to consider how our own ways of discussing emotional responses to exile, both in the past and present, can also perpetuate persecution, albeit unintentionally. By discussing early modern victims’ articulations of their experiences in terms of ‘adopt[ed] emotional strategies’ (Introduction, p. 2) or as being ‘intended’ to ‘dispose people to support their’ aims (Marshall, p. 153), we run the risk of inadvertently stripping historical actors of their own authenticity and, in doing so, encouraging us to also assume a degree of calculation at play in the accounts of today’s asylum seekers, who already face severe epistemic injustice. While this is by no means the intention of the chapter or volume at hand, which admirably provide ‘a critical historical context for us to understand the current global migration and refugee crises’ (p. 6), it is nevertheless wise to tread carefully and employ clear methodologies when discussing the complex relationship between constitutive and performative emotion.
The ways this volume sparks reflection on contemporary as well as past events is only one of its many strong points. Accessibly written, furnished with extensive bibliographies and supported by 34 illustrations, the volume, and Marshall’s chapter within it, will be valuable to all students, researchers and non-specialists interested in early modern religion and emotions.
Cyril Pearce, Communities of Resistance: conscience and dissent in Britain during the First World War. Maps by Helen Durham (London: Francis Boutle, 2020), pp. 556. ISBN 9781838092825. Hardback, £30.00.
Cyril Pearce began his deep research into First World War conscientious objection more than 20 years ago. The result, Comrades in Conscience, which explored the anti-war movement in the large town of Huddersfield in northern England,1 was published the same year as hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center towers in New York, which would go on to create the push for the invasion of Iraq and later manifested the largest anti-war protests in British history. While these protests, like their low-key 1914-18 precursors, were ignored, Pearce has again met exemplary timing, publishing his long-awaited follow-up study on 11 September 2020, in the aftermath of the First World War centenary and worldwide protests against (racial) violence. For anyone wishing to understand the dynamics of dissent and the power of networked people, one need look no further than Communities of Resistance.
To say that Communities is full of carefully researched and fascinating information is an understatement as large as the tome itself. Its 556 pages contain six main sections, including introductory subsections, and excellent appendices containing tabulated data as well as maps by Helen Durham, which help visualise the patina of dissent across Britain. The main body of Communities contains 14 subsections, predominantly arranged geographically, under the themes Patterns of Dissent, Hot Spots, Heartlands and Afterwords. The text is frequently punctuated by illustrations, with those of individual objectors in particular assisting Pearce to ensure, amid the facts and figures, that readers recall that each one of the c.20,000 resisters his decades of research has identified was an individual as well as a nexus in a complex network of conscience. Quakers and the political Left dominate the resistance, but other groups—religious nonconformists, conscientious objectors (COs) working, usually in non-combatant roles, in the military, and those with more personal rejections of service—are all here. Quakers are mentioned or discussed on at least 189 pages of the 482-page main body of the book, but even this underplays the importance that Pearce demonstrates the Religious Society of Friends held in the wider ‘communities of resistance’.
To even attempt to pick out some of the detail seems churlish, but will help readers of this review gain an insight into what they might find in Communities. First and foremost, this is a text about the importance of local forces—traditions, politics, religion, employment, individuals—in shaping dissent. At every turn it is also a testing system, comparing how, and even if, Huddersfield, the subject of Pearce’s first book, was as ‘special’ or as much of an anomaly as was thought by local First World War organisations and the press, and even Pearce himself.2 To do this, the author has asked four key questions to interrogate each local area of Wales, Scotland and England (Ireland did not enforce conscription): ‘How many [COs] were there? Who were they? Why did they refuse to serve? And what did they do?’ (p. 227).
We find, for example, that Croydon, a town just south of London, had ‘a political and ethical chemistry unlike that of any other anti-war hotspot and one in which the sense of [the town] as only one part of a more extensive, even regional, anti-war geography cannot be ignored’ (p. 218). The previous 22 pages outlined how these came into being. We learn, for instance, that there were 190 COs. By using the
Census Reports for 1911 we can calculate the number of men … who, by 1916 and the advent of conscription, would have been between the ages of 18 and 40 and, according to the Military Service Acts, ‘deemed to have enlisted’. Using that number and the number of COs per thousand for each area we can then estimate the number of COs per thousand of these eligible men and call it a ‘CO Index’. (pp. 79-80)
According to these calculations, Croydon had a ‘surprising’ CO index of 6.76 (p. 196), 0.35 higher than Huddersfield (p. 490), making it one of Pearce’s ‘hotspots’. Yet Croydon was ‘True Blue’ Conservative, and a place in which the Liberal vote actually fell during the 1906 landslide national election (pp. 196-7). The ‘slowly emerging ‘Labour’ presence’, unlike elsewhere, was characterised by the Fellowship of the New Life, a kind of Tolstoy-influenced communitarian-cum-socialist church. But it was also laced with other groups, including trades unions, Fabians, the Social Society, the Church Socialist League and the Clarion cycling club. ‘[A]nother crucial strand in the fabric of Croydon’s growing radical community was the Society of Friends’ (p. 200). There was even a local handwritten anti-war newspaper called The Epistle, which held the anti-war community together.
In Croydon, as elsewhere, the Adult School movement proved a strong marker of conscientious objection. Like other places, the suffrage movement provided in-built networks of dissent, though, again as elsewhere, it was split over the war, but pacifism proved the crucial factor for a small number of women to channel their activism. Here, Quaker women, such as Mary Morland, worked for COs’ welfare and against recruiting. Pearce also emphasises the role of, for example, the Mennell family, E. Francis Lawley and Edward Grubb. The ‘coincidence of Quaker “aristocracy” in the Croydon area [was] remarkable and, albeit a minority, nevertheless an influential one’ (p. 203). So it was that of its ‘190 COs, at least twenty-six were identified as Quakers - only a handful of which were “Quakers of convenience”’: those who were identified at some point in their CO journey as Friends, though with little further documentary substantiation. The outcomes for these COs are considered, as they are in the other geographic locations covered by Communities. Membership of the Friends’ Ambulance Unit and Friends’ War Victims’ Relief Committee is always outlined, as it is for Croydon, where Pearce notes that nine Quakers joined, but acknowledges that some Friends joined up. The difference is also noted between ‘absolutist’ COs who faced prison and ‘co-operators’ who took up some kind of work. All the same, for Pearce, Croydon’s ‘chemistry’ was explained mainly by the proximity to London, the influx of commuters and ‘black-coated proletarians’, and ‘remarkable men and women’, especially those found in Quaker circles (pp. 217-18).
This sort of discussion and detail is played out for communities north and south, cities and towns, large and small, in coalfield, cotton mill and agricultural locations, up and down Britain. The painstaking dedication and hard work of Pearce (and, his acknowledgements remind us, of his very own communities of support and resistance: friends, family, colleagues and people he simply encountered) have resulted in something magnificent. There may be questions surrounding how or if the shifting age of conscription (up to 51 by the end of the war) has played into and even skewed the figures—there is no breakdown of age anywhere, including in the appendices. I also have queries of my own, for example around the hues of conscience within the FAU and other Quaker and non-Quaker organisations. But, despite these hesitations, Pearce’s accomplishment is huge. Communities of Resistance is a gamechanger for the First World War historiography, and is as valuable for those considering the social and economic make-up of Britain in the decades surrounding 1900 as it is for Quakers trying to ascertain how their faith and families fit into the much more diverse patchwork of anti-war sentiments than has hitherto been recognised.
Christy Randazzo, Liberal Quaker Reconciliation Theology: a constructive approach (Leiden: Brill, 2020), pp. 102. ISSN 25424971. Paperback, €70.00/$84.00.
Christy Randazzo has made a worthy contribution to the development of Liberal Quaker theology with the publication of Liberal Quaker Reconciliation Theology. Randazzo sets out to provide a constructive approach to understanding Christian theologies of reconciliation in dialogue with Liberal Quaker theology, a task that has not been undertaken in this manner and is challenging because of how difficult Liberal Quaker theology is to translate and map onto more general Christian theologies (p. 2).
Liberal Quaker Reconciliation Theology is broken into three major parts: an overview of Christian Reconciliation theologies; a discussion of Liberal Quaker theologies of reconciliation; and a section that puts these two threads together in dialogue. In the first section Randazzo covers not only a vast amount of topics but a diverse set of theologians articulating reconciliation from various Christian perspectives and traditions, including theological voices from South Africa (pp. 5 and 12) who have much to teach about reconciliation. The goal of the section is to understand what Christian theology has to say about human division, ethnic conflict and evil (p. 46). Topics in this section include the hamartiologies (i.e. the theology of sin) of division; the domination system and systemic division; the exclusion of the other; Divine/Human Interdependence, and are all expertly reviewed. The sections on domination systems (pp. 25-28) and exclusion of the other (pp. 28-32) were particularly instructive, as Randazzo summarises complex theologies of reconciliation from Walter Wink, Miroslav Volf and Rene Girard (pp. 10 and 27).
In the second section Randazzo sets out to catalogue a Liberal Quaker theology as it relates to reconciliation. This is more challenging than it might first appear to the untrained eye for at least two reasons. First, Liberal Quaker theology is known for being more ad hoc rather than systematic in its approach owing to a rejection of creedalism and a desire to avoid creating statements that might appear otherwise (p. 16). Second, Liberal Quaker theology is more rooted in experiential truth that stems from the lives of individuals and the community than it is doctrinal statements applied ipso facto. Therefore, constructing reconciliation theology from within the Liberal Quaker tradition is not a clear path. That leads Randazzo to draw on two main British Quaker sources for exploration and development: Britain Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice and the Swarthmore Lectures going back to 1909 (p. 49). Both sources are seen as bearing theological weight within Liberal Quaker circles.
As there is no systematic Liberal Quaker hamartiology, discussions on domination systems or even clear exposition on the Divine/Human interdependence, for instance, Randazzo’s theological approach is more topical—looking for themes and threads within these sources that come close to Christian reconciliation theology. The threads Randazzo brings together here are compelling and honour the task at hand, drawing on well-established Liberal theologians such as Howard Brinton, Janet Scott, Margery Post Abbott, Rachel Muers and many others. The result is a pastiche resembling a constructive theology that can be built upon later by the author (in section three). Topics in this section are organised in this manner: the hamartiology of Division, theologies of atonement and various theologies of the Light (as Christ, as Holy Spirit, as divine interdependence, as mystical experience and as truth). This section functions well within the scope of the book, but it could also work independently as a good summary of some of where Liberal Quaker theology finds itself today, at least in terms of the topics named above.
Finally, Randazzo pulls these two major sections together into a cohesive starting point for dialogue on the issue of reconciliation theology. After explaining the challenges it is necessary to overcome in order to weave these threads together (p. 81), Randazzo shows the connections that are possible via short discussions and overlap on topics such as Atonement, Hamartiology, Christology/Pneumatology and The Light. Each section ends with a brief précis on the strength and deficiencies within Liberal Quaker theology in developing a robust reconciliation theology.
Randazzo concludes the study with this reflection:
The circumstances of Liberal Quaker theology ensures that dialogue between Christian and Liberal Quaker theology requires a willingness on both sides to adopt a different stance towards the meaning of definition categories, and the relative importance of the specific elements of the dialogue. (p. 81)
While Randazzo’s work is complex by nature—I found some sections to be technical and reliant on previous theological knowledge—the work remains beneficial in its demonstration of a path forward for dialogue. Interested readers will benefit in at least three ways: as a map for furthering this kind of ecumenical theological dialogue; as a starting point for Quaker theologians less familiar with Christian reconciliation theologies and for Christian theologians to understand Liberal Quaker theology; and, finally, as a starting point for a reconciliation theology for Liberal Quakerism. If Randazzo is right in suggesting that Liberal Quaker theologians have often rendered their voice less audible within the broader Christian theological discourse, this is a work that makes great strides in bridging this gap.