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of people, groups, and ideas mentioned in these pages:

Anabaptists, Antinomians, Baptists, Particular Baptists, General Baptists, Fifth Monarchists, Robert Barclay, Richard Baxter, Edward Billing, Edward Burrough, Cabal, Julian and Gregorian Calendars, Giles Calvert, Cavaliers, Charles I, Charles II, Children of the Light, Commonwealth, covenant, Oliver Cromwell, William Dewsbury, Diggers, Elizabeth I, Episcopal Church, established church, Thomas Fairfax, Family of Love, Familists, Margaret Askew Fell, George Fox, Goode Old Cause, Grandees, Thomas Harrison, Henry, Elias Hicks, Elizabeth Hooten, Francis Howgill, Ann Hutchinson, Independents, Interregnum, James I, James II, George Keith, John Lambert, the Lamb's War, William Laud, Levellers, John Lilburne, Lollards, Thomas Lloyd, Mary I, Mary Queen of Scots, Meeting, Meeting for Threshing, Meeting for Sufferings, Second Day's Morning Meeting, Women's Meetings, Meeting for Worship, Monthly Meeting, Yearly Meeting, John Milton, George Monck, James Scott Monmouth, Munster, James Nayler, New Model Army, Richard Overton, Parliament, Long Parliament, Rump Parliament, Barebones Parliament, Pendle Hill, William Penn, Presbyterians, Protectorate, Puritans, Quakers, Thomas Rainsborough, Ranters, Regicides, Restoration, Roundheads, Seekers, Separatists, Martha Simmonds, Swarthmoor Hall, tithes, Henry Vane, William Walwyn, George Whitehead, Roger Williams, Gerrard Winstanley, John Woolman

This is a work-in-progress. Definitions are fairly casual, brief blurbs that would be most relevant for visitors to the rest of this site. If you can improve these definitions or if you'd like to see other terms defined, relating especially to early Quaker history, please email to CONTACT.

For detailed information about British politics, individuals and events, 1638-1660, see the much more thorough website, British Civil Wars, Commonwealth & Protectorate.

Radical protestants, starting in Germany and persecuted throughout Europe, who thought that the rite of baptism should be reserved for believers. Anabaptist means "re-baptizer."
Those who feel they can do whatever they want, as long as they are in the grace of God (which they feel they are, so...)
Started by English Separatists in Amsterdam under Anabaptist influence. Later, especially strong in Wales, where the Quakers made only limited headway.
Particular Baptists
A sect of Puritans who renounced infant baptism and sought Spirit-led peaching rather than ministry in the hands of designated clerics (Gwyn, p. 84; Ingle, pp. 30-1).
General Baptists
In Britain a smaller sect than the Particular Baptists, with stronger roots in the Anabaptist movement on the continent of Europe.
Fifth Monarchists
A spin-off of Particular Baptists in the 1640s, persisting into the 1660s. Interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Daniel 2:44), they believed that a reign of Jesus Christ on Earth (in England) might be ushered in by apocalyptic violence. They were involved in several insurrections in the late 1650s and early 1660s.
Robert Barclay (1648-90)
Convert to Quakerism after studying Presbyterian theology. He tried to rigorize Quakers theologically, with only partial success.
Richard Baxter
Puritan minister who vehemently opposed Quakers.
Edward Billing (c. 1623-86)
Also Byllinge, Byllynge. Cavalry officer and Leveller. He and his wife became Quakers while he was posted in Scotland (Fox's journal, ch. 11). With help from John Fenwick, a fellow Leveller officer and Quaker, and William Penn, he acquired a proprietary claim in West New Jersey, and in 1676 he wrote with Penn The Concessions and Agreements, based on Leveller principles, which was signed by the original West Jersey settlers as a constitution. Parts of this were incorporated by William Penn into the Frame of Government for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Reay, pp. 110-11; Barbour and Frost, p. 294).
Edward Burrough (1634-62)
A leader of Quakers at the age of eighteen, and an able spokesman for the Quakers on political matters. He died in prison soon after the restoration, before Quakers consolidated as the Religious Society of Friends (Reay, p. 121; PYM, p. 85).
The name for Charles II's inner circle of advisers, from about 1667 to 1673, based on their initials: Clifford, Ashley, Buckingham, Arlington, and Lauderdale.
Calendars, Julian and Gregorian
Until 1752, Quakers and others living in the British world used the "Old Style" Julian calendar in which the new year was said to begin on March 25. Thus, in the 1600s a day between January 1 and March 24 might be dated in what we would call the preceeding year; sometimes people wrote both years for a date in the overlap. The Quaker convention of dating months by number generally made March "1st month" or "1mo.," etc.
For more info, see John Pratt's Introduction to Calendars. Also, on this site: Minute from the Meeting for Sufferings in London, on the occasion of the 1752 calendar shift.
Giles Calvert
Publisher of many books, pamphlets, and broadsheets, including works by Seekers, Levellers, Ranters, and Quakers. Brother of Martha Simmonds. Actually, he wasn't a printer; instead he was one of the world's first publishers, who arranged for printing to be done by others.
Royalist soldiers in the English civil wars, often in the cavalry. They grew their hair long and boasted of heroic deeds. Several important battles were lost when Royalist cavalry had charged and then chased some of their enemy from the battlefield, to kill as many as they could and capture those who might be ransomed, while behind them the battle turned against their side.
Charles I (1600-49), King
Executed as "a Tyrant, a Traitor, a Murderer, and a Public Enemy to the Commonwealth of England" (Wedgwood, p. 186).
Charles II (1630-85), King
Son of Charles I. He fled during the Civil War and returned to Scotland in 1651 as would-be King. His army was decisively defeated and he barely escaped capture. After living in exile for the rest of the Commonwealth period, he was finally invited back to take the throne in 1660.
Children of the Light
Group of religious seekers in the English midlands, who had been experimenting with similar ideas to those George Fox began preaching and who joined him in the early Quaker movement.
Civil Wars, English
"Consisting in the utterly memorable Struggle between the Cavaliers (Wrong but Wromantic) and the Roundheads (Right but Repulsive)" -- 1066 and all that (Sellar & Yeatman).
There were three rounds of war: 1642-46, ineffective jockeying for advantage, followed by the 1645 formation of the New Model Army which brought decisive strength to the Parliamentary side; 1648-49, ending in the capture and execution of Charles I; 1650-51, defeat of Charles II and allied Scots.
Form of government adopted after the execution of Charles I in 1649. By 1653, this republican experiment was compromised when Cromwell gave himself overarching powers. After Cromwell died, "Commonwealthsmen" in Parliament saw a chance to restore the Commonwealth, but were outmaneuvered by Monck (Hutton).
The concept that people have an arrangement with God that they are obliged to uphold, which makes them special in some sense. This concept tends to rely on a distinction between those who are "covenented" with God and others who are not, which made covenant-style churches markedly different from Catholic and Episcopal churches that (in principle, at least) include everyone.
Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)
Puritan member of Parliament, he reorganized Parliamentary forces into the New Model Army and defeated Charles I in the Civil Wars, eventually becoming Lord Protector of Britain. He held the position for only a few years until his death in 1658.
William Dewsbury
Early Quaker. Helped to reorganize the movement by encouraging some to take oversight over the activities of local groups and meetings.
Also called themselves "True Levellers." A 'back-to-the-land' movement that tilled unused lands, claiming them for the common people, free of property restrictions. "Work together, Eate Bread together, Declare this all abroad." They were harassed and their communal farms were pillaged until finally the movement was suppressed.
Elizabeth I (1533-1603), Queen
The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth took the throne in 1558 with support from Protestants and held it for forty-five years. During this time Britain became one of the major superpowers of Europe and the western world.
Episcopal Church
The Anglican Church, or Church of England, retained many of the structures of the Roman Catholic Church after separating in 1534 under Henry VIII. By the late 1500s, it was fully established in power, but nonconformist churches were already breaking away.
established church
Any religious denomination which is sponsored and supported by the government, militarily and by force of law, and which in turn tends to support the government (or certain factions of government). In Britain even now, Bishops of the Episcopal Church are part of the House of Lords.
Thomas Fairfax (General)
Top general of the New Model Army during the Civil Wars.
Family of Love, Familists
Radical Christians in England, of a sect that was established earlier in Germany and Holland and spread into England in the second half of the 1500s along with the writings of Henry Niclaes. They believed that men and women might recapture on earth the state of innocence which Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. They held property in common, believed that all things come by nature, and that only the spirit of God in the faithful could really understand the Bible. (Hill, p. 27.)
Margaret Askew Fell (1614-1702)
Wife of Thomas Fell, she was an early convert to Quakerism. Several of their children and some of the household servants also joined. She coordinated Quaker evangelism from their residence at Swarthmore Hall, keeping files of correspondence and allocating funds as needed. Eleven years after Thomas died she married George Fox; they had no children.
Thomas Fell (1598?-1658)
Chancellor of the dutchy of Lancaster. A prominent judge in the north of England and a member of Parliament in various capacities during the Commonwealth period, he supported his wife's decision to join the Quakers and used his influence to protect them as much as he could, although he never joined them himself.
Fifth Monarchists
See under Baptists
George Fox (1624-91)
"First Among Friends," as one historian (Ingle) has phrased it. Regarded by many as the founder of the Religious Society of Friends; it may be said that he gained this status later, when the early Quaker movement consolidated and restructured itself in the 1660s and '70s.
Goode Old Cause
The struggles in the 1630s and early '40s that led to the civil wars and the Commonwealth, as nostalgically recalled in the late 1650s and later, after the restoration. In 1685, adherents of the "Goode Old Cause" rallied to the Duke of Monmouth, but were once again defeated. (Macaulay's History.)
Top officers of Parliamentary Forces during the English Civil War. Many of them, including Fairfax and Cromwell, were also Members of Parliament.
Thomas Harrison Major-General
A radical Member of Parliament and officer in the Parliamentary Army, he rose to command all of the New Model in England. He advocated for a "Nominated Parliament," which was tried briefly after the Rump Parliament was dismissed (Kishlansky, p. 205).
Henry (1594-1612), Prince
First son of James I. Died at age 18, leaving the more inept and self-centered Charles I in line for succession. "And did not the good Prince Henry die?" was a lament used, even generations later, to express resignation in face of disaster (Williamson, p. 18).
Elias Hicks (1748-1830)
Quaker farmer who travelled and ministered extensively among Friends for fifty years starting in 1779. He dissented from efforts to rigorize Quaker christian theology in the early 1800s, and his travels from Meeting to Meeting with this concern, along with opposition to his ministry raised by evangelical Friends, precipitated the 'Great Separation' of 1827.
Elizabeth Hooten (c. 1600-71)
Early Quaker, who Fox regarded as one of his first converts. Another reading suggests it was she who had converted him to views that she and her neighbors had arrived at. Of all the people Fox associated with during his period of seeking, Hooten is the only one whose friendship he kept in the later years. She died in Jamaica, as one of the party of Friends accompanying Fox to the New World. (Fox, ch. 18)
Francis Howgill
Early Quaker.
Ann Hutchinson
Antinomian Puritan in New England.
Puritan churches that tried, but failed, to establish control in England, as distinct from the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterians. They later developed into the Congregational Church.
"Between rulers" – period between the reign of Charles I and the reign of Charles II, 1649-1660.
James I (1566-1625), King
Son of Mary Queen of Scots, he ruled as James VI of Scotland until he succeeded Elizabeth as James I, king of England in 1603. He commissioned the translation of the bible called the King James Version.
James II (1633-1701), King
Second son of Charles I and brother of Charles II, he kept the Catholic faith of his mother, and when he gained the throne, in 1685, it was feared he would reimpose Catholicism on England. He was deposed after three years, in the so-called 'Glorious Revolution.'
George Keith (1638-1713)
With Fox, Penn, and Barclay, one of the most prominent Quaker leaders in the 1670s and 80s. (Fox's Journal, ch. 13.) Keith moved in 1684 to East New Jersey, and in 1689 to Philadelphia where he soon got into a bitter dispute with Friends who resented his attempts to set them straight on points of religious doctrine. After returning to England in 1692, he was disowned by the Yearly Meeting. He later became an Episcopal priest.
John Lambert, General
One of Cromwell's officers and an architect of the Protectorate, he was purportedly backed by Quakers against General Monck in the jockeying for power after Cromwell's death (Reay, p 96; Hutton).
the Lamb's War
As found in the Book of Revelations, this was a favorite metaphor for the movement and programmatic vision of early Quakers.
William Laud, Bishop
Archbishop of the Church of England, he had several prominent Puritans executed for heresy, then was himself executed in 1644 by Parliament.
A movement that started in the New Model Army and gained supporters in the general population when they expressed what they understood to be the purposes of the war. (They resisted the label "Leveller," but it's hard to know what else to call them. Most historians simply accept the term.) When the Civil Wars in England ended, pro-Leveller units were ordered to Ireland; those who refused were crushed militarily.
John Lilburne (c. 1615-56), Lt. Col.
Imprisoned in 1637 for his part in distributing seditious religious literature, Lilburne joined Parliamentary forces and helped Oliver Cromwell to form of the New Model Army. Later he turned reluctantly against Cromwell as he saw the rights of "free-born Englishmen" suppressed under the new regime. He was especially famous for his ability to snarl up trials in legal technicalities and radical oratory. He died in prison, being held (without a conviction) on orders of the Rump Parliament.
Dissident sect in England before the Protestant Reformation, when the Catholic Church was the only established religion. Especially strong in the late 1300s and early 1400s, they opposed many aspects of church hierarchy.
Thomas Lloyd
Lieutenant-Governor of Pennsylvania and a weighty Friend in Philadelphia, he governed the Commonwealth in Penn's absence until deposed by outside military intervention in 1693.
Mary I (1516-58), Queen
Daughter of Henry VIII by Catherine of Aragon and married to Phillip II, King of Spain, during her five-year reign she tried to reimpose Catholicism on England, which gave her the name "Bloody Mary." The martyrs under this persecution served as inspiration in the following century for many nonconformists, including the Quakers - some of whom, including G. Fox and M. Fell, were direct descendents.
Mary Queen of Scots (1542-87), Queen
Catholic heir to the throne after Elizabeth I, she became Queen of Scotland at the death of her father, when she was only six days old. Queen of France through marriage to Francis II, 1558-60, she actually ruled in Scotland from 1561 until forced to abdicate in 1567 in favor of her son James. The focus of many conspiracies aimed at restoring Catholicism in England, she was tried and executed in 1587.
Quaker term for a religious gathering
Meeting for Threshing,
A meeting held after street corner preaching, to "thresh" through possible recruits.
Meeting (continued)
Meeting for Sufferings,
Originally set up to keep track of those who were in prison and to organize support for them and their dependents. By the late 1670s this meeting spoke for the organization as a whole and guided the yearly meeting (Ingle, pp. 256-7).
Second Day's Morning Meeting,
Meeting of Friends on Monday morning each week, held regularly in the first few decades after the rise of Quakerism and attended by well-established Friends in London who became the leaders of the Society of Friends. This gathering has been cited, two centuries later, for precedent by those Friends who've decided to appoint pastors for their "Churches" (Trueblood, pp. 111, 120).
Women's Meetings
Parallel structure which gave women an organized voice, especially at the lower levels of the early Society of Friends. G. Fox was a particularly strong advocate for Women's Meetings. A controversy over how much of a say these meetings should have in Friends' marriages was settled in their favor, at George Fox's insistence and with determined campaigning by Margaret Fell Fox (Ingle, pp. 253-5).
Meeting (continued)
Meeting for Worship,
A term used today for a Quaker religious service. These meetings were generally held twice a week, once on Sunday (First Day) and again mid-week.
Monthly Meeting,
Term that substitutes for the 'church' of most Protestant denominations. So-called because Friends gather monthly for a "Meeting for Worship for the purpose of business," also called the Meeting for Business.
Yearly Meeting,
Generally the body that includes and coordinates the activities of Monthly and Quarterly Meetings in a given geographical region.
John Milton (1608-74)
Puritan writer, he had been closely involved in the Civil Wars and the Commonwealth. His writings after the restoration expressed support for the principles of the revolution, and speculated about how these could ever be put into practice, given the bitter experience.
George Monck, General
Also spelled Monk. Royalist general until nearly the end of the Civil Wars, when he switched to Parliament's side. A determined enemy of the Quakers, he purged them and other radicals from the Army following Cromwell's death, occupied London, and brought Charles II to power. "He took Rebellion rampant by the Throat, And made the Canting Quaker change his Note." (Reay, p. 98; Hutton, p. 71 & passim.)
Monmouth, James Scott, duke of
Illegitimate son of Charles II. When his uncle, James II, took the throne in 1685, he landed at Dorset for the short-lived 'Monmouth Rebellion,' which drew support from some of the groups that, a generation earlier, had supported the Commonwealth.
City in Germany, near Holland, that in 1534 established a reign of the Anabaptists. Under seige, their religious fanaticism intensified to include polygamy and communally held property. When the seige was ended many thousands were killed; the Mennonite church emerged from the ashes. Quakers were often accused of planning another "Munster uprising" in England.
James Nayler (1618-60)
Also spelled "Naylor." One of the most active of early Quaker preachers and for awhile one of Fox's closest companions, Nayler was more sympathetic to ranters than Fox. Tried and convicted by Parliament for blasphemy in 1656, he was imprisoned until 1659 and died shortly after his release.
New Model Army
Parliamentary forces were reorganized following several early defeats. Officers were promoted from the ranks and soldiers were encouraged to think of themselves as fighting for a righteous cause. Can be regarded as the first modern army in the world.
Richard Overton
Civilian leader and pamphleteer in the Leveller movement, he was one of their main links to the underground world of illegal printing and bookselling.
Body of government in England. During the entire Commonwealth period, the House of Lords was laid down. Previously, from 1629 to 1640, Charles I ruled England without Parliament, but he was forced to convene it in order to raise revenues for a war against Scotland.
Parliament (continued)
Long Parliament
After a "Short Parliament" -- called and then dismissed in 1640 -- another parliament was called in 1640 which refused to be dismissed. This body met as a whole until 1648, then briefly again in 1660 when reconvened by General Monk in order to restore the monarchy. In the interim, a part of this group continued as the...
Rump Parliament
During the Civil Wars, pro-royalist members were forced out, usually a few at a time. After the second round of Civil War, in 1649 a large faction suspected of conspiring with Charles I were ousted in "Pride's Purge." The remaining members put Charles I on trial, and of these, a majority (the 'regicides') endorsed his execution. The Rump met until 1653, when Oliver Cromwell expelled them. They were reconvened by Richard Cromwell in 1659 after his father's death, but gave in when General Monk took over.
Barebones Parliament
Also called the "Nominated" Parliament or "Parliament of Saints", many were nominated by meetings controlled by Independent congregations. They met in 1653 for less than a year, then disbanded. Scoffers named it the Barebones Parliament for a member whose given name was actually Praise-God Barebones!
Parliament (continued)
Protectorate Parliaments
Parliaments assembled on the authority of the Lord Protector, in 1654, 1656-57, and 1658-59 (old dating).
Pendle Hill
Hill in northwestern England that George Fox, led by the spirit, climbed one afternoon. From it he saw a vision of "a great people gathered." Also now the name of a Quaker conference center outside Philadelphia.
William Penn (1644-1718)
Son of an Admiral who had supported the restoration, Penn joined the Quakers in 1662 after he was thrown out of college for associating with Puritans. His trial, with William Meade, for preaching at an unauthorized Quaker meeting set a major precedent in English (and U.S.) law when the jury refused to convict, even when the judge threatened them all with imprisonment for insubordinance. Penn later became proprietor of Pennsylvania, as compensation for debts the king owed his father. Pennsylvania (Penn's Woods) is named after his father.
A religious denomination in which religious matters are administered hierarchically by ministers and lay 'presbyters' (or elders). During the 1600s, they tried to replace the Episcopal Church as the single established church, but in England during the Commonwealth period the Independents held them off. After the restoration, the Episcopal Church was reestablished in England, while in Scotland the Presbyterian Church did become the established religion.
When Cromwell laid down Parliament in 1653, he made himself "Lord Protector" and effectively ended the Commonwealth experiment. Some of his advisers, and other royalist-minded supporters, urged that he set himself up as King, but with encouragement from former Levellers and others including the Quaker George Fox, he resisted the idea.
Sought to purify the faith in Britain during the first century after Henry VIII separated the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. They variously inhabited the established church, set up alternative church hierarchies, fostered independent congregations, and spilled over into dissident movements such as the Quakers. This was a derogatory term, actually, that they did not apply to themselves.
A religious sect that first emerged in the midlands of England as the Children of the Light. They spread into the north of England where they gained many adherents, and from there to the south and abroad.
Thomas Rainsborough (d. 1648)
Colonel, Vice-Admiral, and a member of Parliament, Rainsborough was the highest-ranking officer who openly identified with Levellers. Toward the end of the second round of war, Rainsborough was ordered from London to lead a seige against royalist holdouts at Pontefract castle, where he was assassinated one night by a band from the castle. At his funeral in London, the crowd wore ribbons colored sea-green, which became the emblem for the Leveller movement.
A widespread, decentralized movement with a variety of religious ideas, basically antinomian. "The only name the Ranters appeared to accept for themselves collectively was 'My one flesh'. This and their salutation of 'fellow creature' were intended to emphasize unity, with mankind and with the whole creation" (Hill, p. 206). In 1650 many were rounded up under new laws against blasphemy, and forced to recant, but they remained active for years after, and persisted in some areas -- including on Long Island and in other parts of the American colonies -- for decades.
Those of the Rump Parliament who voted for the execution of Charles II.
The reintroduction of monarchy to Britain at the end of the Interregnum, in May 1660.
Soldiers of the New Model Army, so called because of their closely cropped hair (see Cavaliers, above).
Puritans and others who decided they really had no idea what God wanted of them, and who resolved to wait for guidance. Oliver Cromwell seems to have become a Seeker in his later years. Several of his immediate family became Quakers, as did many other seekers.
Protestant congregations that separated from the Church of England, the Presbyterians, and even from the Independent forms of church organization.
Martha Simmonds
Close follower of James Nayler, she is thought to have encouraged Nayler to stand up to George Fox and to undertake the ride into Bristol that led to his facing charges of blasphemy. Afterwards, her brother Giles Calvert lost much of his business publishing Quaker writings (Bittle, 174).
Swarthmoor Hall
Residence of Margaret Fell and her husband Judge Thomas Fell. When Margaret became a Quaker, Swarthmoor became a base of operations for early Quakers.
Monetary support for the established church, taken from everyone of any substance no matter what their own beliefs. Quakers made the abolition of tithes one of their main issues in the last years before the restoration (Hutton, 47).
Henry Vane
A radical republican member of parliament and leader of the Fifth Monarchist uprising in 1660.
William Walwyn (c. 1600-?)
A leader of the Levellers, he was older than most and brought to the movement his experience in radical city politics and the struggle for religious toleration.
George Whitehead
One of the attenders of Second Day Morning Meeting in London, and a prominent leader of the Society of Friends into the early 1700s.
Roger Williams
Puritan dissident who fled the Plymouth Bay Colony and established a colony for religious dissidents, which later became the state of Rhode Island.
Gerrard Winstanley
A chief spokesman for the Diggers.
John Woolman 1720-72
Mystic and prophet, known especially for articulating Quaker testimonies for simplicity, against complicity in economic oppression, and against slave-holding by Friends.


See: Bibliography - Sources cited above are given in an annotated bibliograpy, posted separately.

See also:

Revolution in Seventeenth-Century England - Dates from 1625 to 1690, and Parliaments held 1603 to 1689.

ExLibris: English Dissenters: Adamites to Grindletonians, Jacobites to Lollards, Muggletonians to Seekers.