Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the Lancaster University & Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre 's online course, Radical Spirituality: the Early History of the Quakers. Join the course to learn more.

The Civil War Context

The English Civil War is the background into which Quakerism emerges.

This is a tumultuous period in English social history and combined with harvest failures and food shortages, high levels of religious expectation and political vision, it has been described as a time when the ‘world was turned upside down’.

This step is about understanding the key issues and the timeline of events.
The Civil War heralds the culmination of hopes for a true and full religious reformation instead of the political one that Henry VIII had instituted in 1534. It is a struggle for democratic power over the dynastic divine right of the monarchy and of greater enfranchisement.

For some, the war and the upheaval signal that Christianity is reaching the culmination of the biblical timeline and that the events foretold in the book of Revelation are about to come true. Everything is up for discussion, negotiation, and revision or revolution.

Some of the first Quakers fought in the Civil War. George Fox travelled around England staying at the army camps where the most radical ideas were circulating and whilst he doesn’t mention it, his transforming experience happens in 1647 during the Civil War.

Quakerism later flourishes during the Republic led by Cromwell partly because of the lack of censorship and the degree of religious freedom offered the Quakers by the Puritan rulers.

Extra Resources

Below are some links to articles and YouTube videos which will give you some background about the English Civil War. Watch one or two of them to help understand the political context in which the Quaker movement was born.

Wikipedia entry on the English Civil War
Civil War and Revolution
Civil War - Timelines.tv History of Britain
English Civil War | 3 Minute History
The English Civil War in Five Minutes. OK, six and a half
The beheading of England’s King Charles I

Please feel free to share additional resources by posting a comment, or by joining in the discussion in the next step, where you will find some further links.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Radical Spirituality: the Early History of the Quakers

Lancaster University