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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.

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, or pacifism, or perhaps prison reform. But there is much much more to the Quakers than any of these things.

Through this course, we will 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.

Explore exactly where the Quakers started

Almost from nothing, the Quakers were to become the most successful sect of the 1650s and 1% of the population of England were to become Quakers. It was a radical spirituality which appealed to thousands of people, hungry for new ways of thinking.

In this three week course, we will see how the events of 1652 unfolded and visit the key sites of Pendle Hill, Firbank Fell, and Swarthmoor Hall in the northwest of England. Each of these places marks a critical piece of the dramatic story of May and June 1652.

Learn about key figures in the Quaker movement

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, convinced of 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. Through this course you’ll meet and get to know the major figures who contributed to the Quaker movement.

Understand how the Quakers changed the face of England

Each week contains films, some accompanying readings 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.

Together, 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.

By the end of the course, you will be able understand the beginnings of the Quaker movement and explain its key ideas and radical nature; and be able to reflect on the consequences of Quaker spirituality.

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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 11 seconds In 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 seconds We 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 seconds Together, 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.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript £39.00

Statement of Participation £24.00

Estimate prices in preferred currency

Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.