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Online course

Radical Spirituality: the Early History of the Quakers

Learn about the beginnings of this radical religious group as it emerged in 17th century England, with this free online course.

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Radical Spirituality: the Early History of the Quakers

Why join the course?

When you think of the Quakers, it might bring to mind porridge oats, pacifism or prison reform but there is much more to Quakerism.

We will be finding out about what lies at the heart of Quaker beginnings, who its main characters were, and how in the summer of 1652 the Quaker movement was formed in the north of England.

We will explore the beginnings of Quakerism and this critical piece of religious history of a group who gathered around a radical and outspoken spiritual message that was to change the face of 1650s England, and has since remained a distinctive part of the religious landscape.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds[MONKS CHANTING]

Skip to 0 minutes and 31 secondsIf you think of the Quakers, it might bring to mind porridge oats or pacifism or perhaps prison reform. But through this online course, we'll be finding out about what lies at the heart of Quaker beginnings, who its main characters were, and how in a few weeks during the summer of 1652, the Quaker movement was formed in the North of England. Almost from nothing, the Quakers were to become the most successful sect of the 1650s. And 1% of the population of England was to become a Quaker. It was a radical spirituality which appealed to thousands of people hungry for new ways of thinking.

Skip to 1 minute and 12 secondsIn this three-week course, we'll see how the events of 1652 unfolded and visit the key sites of Pendle Hill, Firbank Fell, and Swarthmoor Hall in the North West of England. Each of these places marks a critical piece of the dramatic story of May and June 1652. On Pendle Hill, George Fox, who will come to lead the movement, has a vision of a great people to be gathered. He finds and recruits hundreds, preaching on Firbank Fell a few weeks later. And in Ulverston, he meets Margaret Fell who, converted to the Quaker message, becomes a co-leader of the group and allows her home, Swarthmoor Hall, to become the headquarters of the new Quaker movement.

Skip to 1 minute and 57 secondsWe also look at what happened next and the picture of Quakers around the world today. Each week contains films like this one, some accompanying reading of George Fox's Journal, a focus on a key text from the period to help us better understand the experience and message of early Quakerism, and some reflection exercises and quizzes. I'm Ben Pink Dandelion, and I look after the Quaker Studies courses at Lancaster University. I'll be joined on this course by experts in early Quakerism, Professor Hilary Hinds and Professor Angus Winchester of Lancaster University, . and Dr. Betty Hagglund and Stuart Masters of Woodbrooke Quaker Study Center in Birmingham.

Skip to 2 minutes and 38 secondsTogether, we look forward to exploring with you the beginnings of Quakerism and this critical piece of religious history of a group who gathered around a radical and outspoken spiritual message that was to change the face of 1650s England, and has since remained a distinctive part of the religious landscape. [MONKS CHANTING]

What topics will you cover?

  • The context of the English Civil War
  • The religious ideas of George Fox and other early Quakers
  • The importance of Fox’s Pendle Hill Experience
  • The role of travel in the start of the Quaker movement
  • Fox’s sojourn in Sedbergh
  • The interiorised nature of Quaker spirituality
  • The popularity and unpopularity of Quakerism
  • Margaret Fell’s role in early Quakerism
  • Quaker history post 1652
  • Quakerism as a global faith

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Develop an understanding of the civil war context of the beginnings of Quakerism
  • Engage with the key ideas of George Fox and the early Quakers
  • Explore the mode and content of early Quaker writing
  • Reflect on the consequences of key Quaker theological ideas
  • Assess the importance of the location of the beginnings of Quakerism
  • Develop an understanding of Quaker history after 1652

Who is the course for?

There are no special requirements to take this course, but an interest in religion or history or both, might be beneficial.

Who will you learn with?

Ben Pink Dandelion

I have worked on Quaker history, theology and sociology for over 25 years now. I work at Woodbrooke, the Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham but also work with Lancaster and Birmingham Universities.

Who developed the course?

Lancaster University is a collegiate university, with a global reputation as a centre for research, scholarship and teaching with an emphasis on employability.

Woodbrooke is Europe’s only Quaker Study Centre and has been offering adult education since it was founded in 1903.

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Get extra benefits, upgrade this course. For $44 you'll get:

Unlimited access

Upgrading will mean you get unlimited access to the course.

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  • Take the course at your own pace
  • Refer to the material at any point in future

If you’re taking a course for free you have access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join. If you upgrade the course you have access for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn.

Certificate of Achievement

Upgrading means you’ll receive a Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course.

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  • Prove your success when applying for jobs or courses
  • Celebrate your hard work
  • Display on your LinkedIn or CV
  • Includes free shipping

To receive a Certificate of Achievement you need to mark 90% of the steps on the course as complete.