The Early Quakers, the Peace Testimony and Masculinity in England, 1660–1720



As Karen Harvey and Alexandra Shepard have asserted, most research into the history of masculinity has concentrated on dominant groups, while more work is needed on the range of codes of behaviour available to other men. Arguably, no aspect of seventeenth-century Quaker behaviour ran more contrary to dominant norms than the insistence on pacifism and rejection of violence. This article considers Friends’ pacifism and its relation to masculinity, including its implications for local society, showing how it related to Quaker rejections of domestic violence and to the violent masculinity of the alehouse. However, non-violent forms of control were used to uphold patriarchal norms and to control women and those whose behaviour was considered to be inappropriate. Developing the insights of the social scientist Kenneth Boulding and philosopher Steve Smith, this article explores how Quaker practices of exclusion and ostracism can be seen as highly effective forms of coercion, even if they did not involve physical force, and in doing so highlight how seventeenth- and twentieth-century interpretations of pacifism differ. Quaker identity and discipline were maintained in strikingly effective ways which often mirrored patriarchal norms, and indeed Friends’ self-perception is shown to have been highly controlled in order to maintain a collective reputation for sobriety, honesty and restraint.