British Quakers and the Bible: a Nineteenth Century Perspective

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Spring 2005 No 16 – 01/04/2005

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Author: Peggy Heeks

Document Code: WJ16

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Peggy Heeks was the Eva Koch Scholar at Woodbrooke four years ago when she began this project to research Quaker attitudes towards the Bible in the nineteenth century. At that time she was finishing a study of the role of the Bible in Britain Yearly Meeting at the end of the twentieth century. It was this essay that was published in the summer of 2002. Subsequently Peggy has finished her work on the Bible in the Victorian era and I am pleased that there is space in the calendar to publish this essay.

The nineteenth century is a fascinating one socially, politically and scientifically. These changes all had an effect on the religious beliefs of the day as well as practices. The movement of people from the countryside to the towns and cities had already started but it continued throughout the century and the organisation of labour changed dramatically. This led to changes in relationships within society and to greater self awareness. These factors, together with scientific discoveries which included evolutionary theory, had their effect on the way the Bible was understood by some scholars. This in turn had an impact on church goers and church leaders alike. It was a time of questioning and challenges and the Quakers were no exception.

This is an interesting read and I recommend it to those who want an introduction to this significant period of Quaker history. There are plenty of references for those who get ‘hooked’ and want to continue.

Judith Jenner

Tutor in Quaker Studies

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