Between Quietism and Radical Pietism: The German Quaker Settlement Friedensthal 1790 – 1814

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Spring 2004 Vol 14 –  01/04/2004

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Author: Claus Bernet

Document Code:                WJ14

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The Woodbrooke Journal is pleased to publish this article in which Claus Bernet has recorded the development of a Quaker settlement near the spa town of Bad Pyrmont in Germany in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. He carefully places the growth of the settlement at Friedensthal in the context of Radical Pietism in Germany during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Friedensthal or the Peace Valley started out with one house on three acres of land in an uncultivated valley given to Ludwig Seebolm by Friedrich Carl August, Duke of Pyrment-Waldeck who was tolerant of Quakers and in 1791 offered them public protection.

Ludwig and two other settlers were given permission to establish a settlement and manufacture goods. The knife factory was the main business although other goods were tried including paper, flax and soap but they were not always successfully marketed. At one point there was a printing press. Quakers from both Britain and America supported the settlement also providing funds for the buildings and in 1795 it became part of London Yearly Meeting. The settlement developed along strict moral, social and economic lines and strict rules were maintained. A ‘hedge’ was built to keep the ‘world’ out as they tried to create their own simple righteous community.

As well as describing other Quaker events and developments that were happening in the surrounding area Bernet records in detail the relationships between those involved in Friedensthal and other Quaker groups growing in this part of Germany. The reader will discover it was not always plain sailing. There is a comprehensive list of Friends from America and Britain who visited the settlement during that period.

This is a careful piece of research which gives a glimpse of the experiences of a small group of Friends in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Germany. Another small treasure to be added to our collection of Quaker history.

Judith Jenner

Tutor in Quaker Studies

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