This thesis argues against the received view of 18th century Quakerism, which is heavily influenced by the work of Rufus Jones and effectively depreciates it in favour of the 17th c. It is widely thought that the tightening discipline and regulation of the minutiae of life found in Quakerism of this period represents a fossilisation and rigoristic/legalistic interpretation of early Quaker ideals. Damiano argues that this sees thing from the wrong perspective; rather, external practices like rigorously-adhered to plainness in speech and simplicity of dress made a quasi-sacramental statement about the inward ideals. Damiano understands these ideals in terms of ‘realised eschatology’: the new order of the kingdom of God does not arrive in some temporal end time not yet reached, but is going on now in the hearts and lives of believers. 18th c Quakers lived as the eschatological community of the redeemed in their personal lives, and their community structure and outward dress and behaviour was supposed to be a visible expression and reminder of their inner regeneration, to themselves and to the wider world. Damiano compares 18th c Quaker ideas with 20th century feminism, drawing parallels between the epistemology of the two, as well as their implied and explicit ‘prophetic’ criticism of the societies to which they belonged and yet sought to define themselves against in order to change those societies. Damiano is sympathetic to a Christocentric Quakerism, and views individualistic, modern secular liberal values with suspicion. In effect she sees Jones’s account of early Quakerism as reducing it to a spiritual version of humanism and liberalism.

Who it would be useful for: Academics working in Quaker studies; social historians of religion/18th century; those interested in feminism and religion, either from a sociological or theological perspective.

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