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History of Quakerism

The historical basis of the Society of Friends lies in the mid 17th century with George Fox. This was a time of great religious, social and political ferment in England, and to some extent throughout Europe. The increasing accessibility of English translations of the Bible contributed to religious turmoil, with large numbers of people seeking alternatives to the established churches. The Roundheads and Cavaliers fought the English Civil War, King Charles I was beheaded, and in just a few years the monarchy was restored. With thousands of supporters, Fox founded the Society of Friends of Truth.

While many religious people throughout the ages have withdrawn in solitude to realise the presence of God, the Friends' practice of seeking this realisation by meeting together in silence was new and is still a unique contribution to religious practice. The Society was one of many new religious groups to arise at this time. Its growth was very rapid, and it is one of the few to remain into the 21st Century.
 
As with other groups breaking away from the established church, many faithful Friends were persecuted. They had to endure imprisonment in cold, damp, and stinking dungeons. In fact a strong motivation for the early organisation of Friends was to ensure that they kept track of those who were imprisoned - often far from home - and to make sure that they were cared for. This was so much a feature of those early Quakers in England that the standing committee empowered to act for the Society in between the annual 'Yearly Meetings' was known as the 'Meeting for Sufferings'!
 
On one occasion when Fox was appearing in a court he declared that the justices and those around him should tremble at the name of the Lord. This man then scornfully called Fox and his friends "Quakers". The name spread quickly and has become better known than the official "Society of Friends."
 
In this period many Friends emigrated to avoid the persecution. The commonest destination was North America, and there are now many more Quakers there than in Britain.
 
You can read more about Quaker History below:
Elizabeth Fry (1780 -1845)  - is well known for her great work in helping prisoners and encouraging prison reform
New Zealand Quaker History - early Quakers in New Zealand
Quaker History in Nelson - the first Quaker Meeting House in New Zealand