From an 'unruly sect' to a society of 'strict unity' : the development of Quakerism in England c.1650-1689
By 1689 Quakers had changed sufficiently from their 'radical' beginnings to be included in the Toleration Act of that year. This thesis examines key areas of Quaker thought and practice from c. 1650-1689 in an attempt to explain why Quakers became more acceptable. Although 1660 was an obvious turning point in Quakerism, many changes did not occur until some years later. Of utmost importance was the development of the highly efficient network of both central and local business meetings during the later 1660s and into the 1670s which provided a framework for further change in the sense that organization helped to bring about some degree of control in the movement. Coupled with this were changes in patterns of leadership and authority. Quakerism developed from a movement relying on charismatic leadership to one based much more on the authority of the central bodies in London. Crucial too were the many shifts in religious thought which can be seen clearly in Quaker catechisms over the period. There was a gradual move towards more orthodox doctrinal standpoints during the 1660s and l670s in areas where Quakers had been deemed heretical, for example in their notion of the 'inner light' and its relation to the incarnate Christ and Quaker views of the Trinity. The most noticeable change came in Quaker behaviour. By 1689, Quakers had dropped the enthusiastic activities of earlier years such as 'testifying by signs' which had attracted such attention and were no longer seen as social radicals. Anti-Quaker sources confirm this view: Quakers were still viewed with suspicion in relation to their religious beliefs but they were no longer perceived as the wild individuals of the l650s who had appeared to their adversaries to be intent on destroying the social order.