2017 George Richardson Lecture
'Idiot' - Questions of Early Quaker Identity in Light of a Legal Dispute
Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre
5 July 2017
Who was a Quaker before the age of membership? What might disqualify you from some kinds of participation in, and recognition by, the group? Might cognitive impairment of one kind or another? What was idiocy in seventeenth century terms and as the Age of Reason dawned, where did the idiot stand among Quakers? When disputes arose, where did Quakers stand in relation to the wider community? These and other questions emerge from study of a case in the Court of Chancery in the early 1680s. It concerned land and property in rural South Wales and around Cardiff. Study of it brings into fresh focus some well-known Quaker names of this period, filling gaps in the known biography about them. Above all it sheds light on an individual in a family of Quaker activists, about whom Quaker records are silent.
Christine Trevett is professor emerita (in history of religion) from Cardiff university’s Centre for Late Antique Religion and Culture in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion. Quaker history is a hobby which occasionally gets out of hand and she has written articles, essays and three books on Quakers (one linked with a Swarthmore Lectureship). Another of her interests, though, is in the attribution of religious meaning to human conditions. It was useful when she did an MA in Autism in recent years. She likes to study the marginalised, the heretics and the under-recorded, which may include women.