The Oxford Handbook of Quaker Studies
Stephen W. Angell and Ben Pink Dandelion,
Church Times Bookshop £85.50 (Use code
THE Oxford Handbook series is widely acclaimed for the depth of
its research and authoritative overview of a wide range of
subjects. This volume of Quaker studies is a welcome addition to
the literature on the Society of Friends.
The book comprises a series of essays by 42 experts in fields
ranging from the historical foundations of Quakerism across the
theology and sociology of the movement to its expression in today's
world. Each chapter offers suggestions for further reading, and an
extensive bibliography is also provided.
Students of the history and sociology of religion in general and
of Quakerism in particular will find the gathering of this
information into one volume both useful and overdue. Its appeal to
the general Quaker reader is less clear, although there will be few
among us - whether birthright Friends or "Quakers by convincement"
- who will not learn something by browsing this work of
Robynne Rogers Healey's essay on Quietist Quakerism is
particularly illuminating. The century that followed the death of
George Fox brought the development of attitudes and practices that
are widely seen as defining characteristics of the Quaker way of
life. The creative tensions of modern Quakerism may perhaps be best
understood by reference to this period, during which the original
founding zeal of the "enthusiastic" 17th-century Seekers and
"Publishers of Truth" evolved into something closer to present-day
experience, with its emphasis on the humanitarian work that is an
outworking of the Testimonies to peace, equality, simplicity, and
The excellent historical expositions of the development and
varied manifestations of what is essentially an experiential rather
than a doctrinal faith also serve to remind us that the European
tradition is not the only expression of Quaker faith and practice.
The more Evangelically inclined "programmed" worship common in some
parts of the United States and much of Africa is just as much part
of the tradition as are the non-credal ethos and largely silent
worship with which more of us are familiar.
There are, unfortunately, several typos, factual errors, and
contradictions within the text. The latter probably result from the
multi-author format. But it is not unreasonable to expect a higher
standard of proof-reading in a work of this importance.
The Oxford Handbook of Quaker Studies should ideally be
in the library of every Meeting House. At a price of £95, however,
this seems unlikely. If it is to find the readership that it merits
beyond the academic world, we must hope that OUP will issue a
paperback edition before too long.
Jill Segger is a freelance journalist, and is an associate
director of the think tank Ekklesia.