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Archives and Information in the Early Modern World$

Kate Peters, Alexandra Walsham, and Liesbeth Corens

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266250

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266250.001.0001

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date: 25 May 2020

Truth and Suffering in the Quaker Archives

Truth and Suffering in the Quaker Archives

(p.239) 10 Truth and Suffering in the Quaker Archives
Archives and Information in the Early Modern World

Brooke Sylvia Palmieri

British Academy

Abstract and Keywords

Using the records and publications of the Quakers, this chapter considers the religious and political context behind the creation of the Quaker archive and the relationship between scribal material and print culture in making meaning. The story of Mary Fisher’s (c.1623–1698) trip to Constantinople to convert the Sultan of the Ottoman Turks provides a valuable case study in how a letter became an archival document before circulating widely in print. Initially a product of the zealous, evangelical epistolary culture that characterised Quaker writings of the 1650s, it was transferred into the public archive created during the extreme persecution of the 1660s to situate the Quakers within a longer history of suffering. Later it was used to advance the political argument for toleration by offering an instance of Muslim hospitality in counterbalance to Christian cruelty. The chapter highlights how changing historical contexts transform the nature of the truth of archives.

Keywords:   Quakers, archives, manuscripts, epistolary culture, print culture, history of the book, John Foxe, Mary Fisher

‘Behind the record is the need to record’ (Terry Cook)1

WE WILL NEVER know exactly what Mary Fisher (1623–98), a travelling preacher from the Society of Friends, called Quakers, might have said to the ruler of the Ottoman Empire Mehmed IV (1642–93) in 1658. In the only surviving letter on the subject, she wrote merely that she had ‘borne [her] testimony’ to him.2 New England Judged (1661), the first and lengthiest printed description of Fisher’s travels, details her dialogue with the ‘Great Turk’ but not the testimony itself:

[Mehmed] bad her speak the Word of the Lord to them, and not to fear, for they had good hearts and could hear it … Which she speaking what the Lord had put into her mouth to say, They all gave dilligent heed with much soberness and gravity till [Fisher] had done, and then [Mehmed] asking her, Whether she had any more to say? She asked of him, Whether he understood what she had said? He replied, Yes, Every word; and further said—That it was Truth…3

This printed version adds further embellishment not found in Fisher’s letter: describing the long and wearying journey from Venice to Mehmed’s camp at Adrianople; the retinue surrounding Mehmed; the three translators present; their discussion about the Prophet Mohammed; her journey back home. At the centre of the encounter lies the ‘Truth’ which Fisher conveyed to her satisfaction, and which compelled Mehmed to first ask her to stay, and then to offer her horses for her journey. But that central truth is never transcribed. It has no content. It is a truth that the reader can only imagine.

(p.240) In other words, the encounter presents readers with a distinction between what can be spoken and what can be written, between spirituality and history, between truth and narrative. Comparing both archival and printed sources, their mutual silence on the question of what Fisher actually said remains as an elegant, and honest, treatment of the basic problem that bedevils religious writing and the religious archive: can the divine, and testimonies about encounters with the divine like Fisher’s, be truthfully documented? Taking as a case study Mary Fisher’s encounter with Mehmed, my purpose here is to consider its context within a religious archive, kept by the Quakers, against the realities of its use both within the sect and in the publication of polemical works for circulation more broadly. While it may never be possible to bridge the gap between truth and narrative, or spiritual experience and history, it is possible to reconstruct the changing mentalities with which stories like Fisher’s are recorded, archived, and used over time. The exaggerated nature of the difficulties in compiling a religious archive amongst a group of heavily persecuted and unevenly educated people, from having the correct documents, to transferring them into a consistent order, to harmonising the language they contain for later use, is a cautionary tale to remember even when considering other types of collections, from scientific to judicial. As Elizabeth Yale writes, ‘No archive is innocent.’4 Writing is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. As it is always contrived, so must it be questioned.

Yet not all Quaker writings treat the space between narrative and truth as delicately as Mary Fisher. The Friends’ earliest pamphlets are aggressive in the heady mixture of apocalypticism and exuberance with which their authors described their testimonies of conversion and experiences of the divine. And no wonder: the Quakers, a religious sect formed in the wake of the civil wars of the 1640s, were products of the political crises of their day, the deadliest conflict in England’s history that also saw a profusion of radical religious groups.5 Parallel to the complete breakdown of order, including the ability of the printing industry to censor its output, was a surge in printed petitions and pamphlets containing a profusion of radical ideas, questioning monarchical and ecclesiastical hierarchy.6 Quakers carried these ideas forward in their writings, and in their reliance upon printing to maintain cohesion between the growing sprawl of converts.7

(p.241) The Quakers justified their beliefs, and the motivation behind their publications, in terms of the ‘Inner Light’, not a metaphor but an experience of direct revelation from the divine, that superseded even the authority of Scripture, privileging ‘Spirit’ over ‘Letter’.8 Critics accused them of setting their spirits against the authority of Scripture, but the Quaker counter-claim was that they wrote with one and the same spirit of divine inspiration as the prophets and the evangelists.9 Going beyond other radical groups, such as the Baptists, who sought to pattern their lives after the New Testament, early Quakers claimed ‘immediate revelation’, that their experiences were one and the same as the earliest, ‘primitive’ church as described in the New Testament.10 Publication was a necessary consequence of the experience of revelation received from the ‘Inner Light’ and a way of laying bare the corruption of ecclesiastical hierarchy. The Quakers referred to themselves as the ‘Publishers of Truth’ and two early leaders, George Fox (1624–91) and Richard Hubberthorne (1628–62), wrote in 1653, that ‘[O]ur giving forth Papers or Printed Books, it is from the immediate eternal Spirit of God, to the shewing forth the filthy practises of the Worlds Teachers.’11 Allegiance to the ‘Truth’, which was illuminated by the ‘Light within’, was performed in the act of printing itself: ‘Let none print but what they can eternally witness’, Fox wrote in a separate letter to Friends.12

The truth of Quaker publications was supported by a wide array of records, and whether or not it survives, every printed book also bears witness to an archive that once existed. The interplay between records and printed works became increasingly visible as Quakers gained followers, and as the movement sought to establish itself in the face of persecution after the return of rule by monarch under Charles II in 1660. In its 1657 and 1661 scribal and printed iterations, Mary Fisher’s story speaks volumes about the Quakers at an early juncture in their development as a nonconformist religious group that relied upon record-keeping and publication both to preserve identity, and to hold their persecutors accountable. The prominence of Fisher’s story beyond New England Judged in 1661 is ideal in offering a glimpse into the needs archives respond to over time, and, in this case, the ways in which changing desires might alter the meaning of truth itself.

In Fisher’s case, the initial emphasis on the truth of her unrecorded testimony, an evangelical act, and its impact upon Mehmed, later gave way to its significance (p.242) within her life story. Fisher’s story survives in its different formats—as a letter, within a manuscript in the Quaker archive, and in a range of printed books—showing that change in emphasis and providing the organisational basis for this chapter. Although Fisher never recorded the ‘Truth’ of the testimony she bore to Constantinople, but narrated its effects, I will similarly consider the influence of elements absent from her story. This is not a spiritual so much as a material exercise, connecting the story to three increasingly broad contexts: as a letter written to inform and comfort the early Quaker community, as a document in a transitional period within a growing archive, inspired by Quaker readings of Foxe’s Actes and Monuments; and consequently, as a story within printed books beginning with New England Judged, appealing for religious toleration in the Massachusetts Bay Colony but used as a lobbying tool back in England.

The accession of Charles II to the throne in 1660 converted the enthusiasm of the Commonwealth period into fanaticism, feared and legislated against, initiating nearly three decades of state-sanctioned persecution of Quakers.13 Barry Reay has argued that the profusion of Quaker pamphlets contributed to the sense of fear and panic that lead to Charles’s restoration in the first place—they overstated their importance through brazen engagement with the clergy and pamphleteering.14 Whereas Quaker ‘sufferings’ before comprised the experience of an itinerant Quaker leadership, the Clarendon Code passed between 1661 and 1665—especially the 1662 ‘Quaker Act’ requiring an oath of allegiance—initiated waves of persecution against the Quakers. This in turn prompted a shift in the tone and content of Quaker pamphlets: from the visions of a few, to the collected experiences of persecution and property destruction of many. The nature of the truths described by the widening array of ‘Publishers of Truth’, shifted to combine spiritual testimony and narratives of persecution with exactly the care of accounts like Mary Fisher’s encounters with Mehmed. Fisher’s story began as a significant example of Quaker evangelical success before 1660, and after, it became important as an example of toleration abroad against the background of an incredibly intolerant Christian culture.

Tracing Fisher’s story within this context, deployed in print with very clear aims in mind, creates a sense of a continuum between scribal and printed information Friends maintained, and the ways in which this continuum was shaped by religious and political intent. The creation of the Friends’ archive was an act of response to pain and persecution, but it was also an act of linking persecution with historical consciousness. The manuscripts compiled by the earliest clerk to the Friends, Ellis Hookes (1635–81), were in imitation of print, inspired by his readings of the martyrologist John Foxe’s (1516–87) Actes and Monuments (1563), or (p.243) ‘Book of Martyrs’. The totality of Friends’ records, correspondences, and printed works functioned as a body of evidence to support a perception of historical continuity between Foxe’s brutal depictions of the Marian martyrs and Quaker treatment under Charles II. Friends were encouraged to keep detailed records by the emerging leader of the sect, George Fox, and Hookes. By moving between book and archive, I hope to offer a model for applying the same sensitivity Ann Laura Stoler has developed in reading against and Along the Archival Grain, often the strategy of the post-colonial scholar, to the warp and woof of archival grains that are not limited to the ethnographic studies of her focus.15

The existence of archival documents might become taken for granted and ignored—once her story reached print, it was often that printed iteration that was drawn from and republished rather than the letter itself. I have chosen Fisher’s story as it travelled along the spectrum of print and manuscript to shed light on the complicated interplay between the two, and consequently, the reciprocal relationship that might be forged between book history and archive studies. Unlike other archives kept in secret such as those within accounting firms or state departments, the Quaker model fostered the collection of documents for publication, although they did not print everything they collected. Considering as a whole the archival and publication habits of the Friends occupies the middle ground between Adrian Johns and the late Elizabeth Eisenstein in ‘How Revolutionary Was the Print Revolution?’ On the one hand it is through evidence of widespread engagement with record-keeping habits meant for publication that I can respond to Johns’ call to ‘explain the development and consequences of print in terms of how communities involved with the book as producers … actually put the press and its products to use’. And on the other hand, the Quakers populate the reality of Eisenstein’s approach: they invested in print culture as she defines it, seeking to use the duplication of texts and repetition of stories to argue for political and legal change, as well as to attempt to enforce a standard of language and belief amongst their membership.16 As the bulk of evidence and consensus-building exercises happens in the archives, rather than in the texts of published works themselves, print culture cannot be built on print alone.

Quaker publications were part of what Jason Peacey has described as the ‘participatory tactics’ of petitioning and pamphleteering in 1640s, expanding the use of mere signatures from in their printed works to include multiple authors of the works themselves, drawn from an emerging record of sufferings. In this way, the archive of Quaker sufferings is an important contribution to the diffusion of Civil War practices well beyond the Commonwealth period and to Peacey’s (p.244) call for a ‘political history of the book’, albeit from a point of religious motivation.17 Quaker sufferings argued that the group belonged to a dynasty of sufferers and martyrs at the same time as they argued for ‘Liberty of Conscience’.18 For instance, The Cry of the Innocent for Justice (1662), was printed in two parts and signed at various parts of the narrative by seven different authors from around England. Further relations were printed in response, from Colchester, London, Middlesex, Worcester, subscribed by incarcerated Friends. Some pamphlets covered specific court proceedings: A true Relation of the Unjust Proceedings … at Margarets Hill in Southwark (1662). Other pamphlets read like newspapers: A Brief Relation of the Persecutions and Cruelties described a month’s worth of brutality against Quakers ‘in and about’ London. To publish these types of works at regular intervals required two basic elements in place: strong local communities instructed in record-keeping, and strong ties between those meetings and central Quaker authorities in London.19 New England Judged in turn drew from a large collection of Quaker sufferings found in the archives to create a narrative about toleration directed at the governors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As a collection of sufferings it did not fully leave behind the fiery language of earlier Quaker pamphlets, and like Foxe’s ‘Book of Martyrs’ a century earlier, it was a work meant to achieve a certain goal.

However, in its scribal and printed contexts, the power of Fisher’s own encounter with Mehmed in New England Judged did not require their meeting to have happened at all to be ‘Truth’. According to her letter, she felt her trip into the Ottoman Empire to be a success, whether or not it was the seventeen-year-old sultan she encountered. Its place within New England Judged was meant to emphasise Muslim hospitality, and to pressure King Charles II to order Puritans in New England to repeal laws authorising the murder of Quakers trespassing into their territory, and Charles did. The story itself has been repeated in histories about the Society of Friends until the present. But in spite of the accumulated sources that have used and bore witness to the story over the centuries, the only contemporary surviving documents leave room for doubt. Although she did make it to Constantinople, filling the gaps in Fisher’s story with an understanding of Ottoman politics at the time and the intricacies of Ottoman–European diplomacy makes her encounter with Mehmed less certain than scholarship on the issue has previously acknowledged.

(p.245) The blurred boundaries between truth and narrative makes Fisher’s story ideal for tracing in manuscript and print, a test case to slow down the process of record-keeping and its intended uses to viewing speeds. It allows us not only to interrogate the mechanics of the Quaker archive, but the competing assumptions made about its contents over the centuries, and its complicated relationship to printed material. In Fisher’s case, we can watch a letter written first in evangelical zeal, copied into the earliest Quaker archive, a letter-book, and used secondly for polemical writing, and thirdly for biographical writing. As Natalie Zemon Davis has shown in Fiction in the Archives, by prioritising the fictive qualities of documents it is possible get a sense of how narrative is crafted, and why.20 But tracking the uses of Fisher’s letter in the Quaker archive goes further, beyond her singular role in crafting a narrative, to show how its preservation within an archive makes possible the creation of multiple narratives, multiple afterlives, depending on how it is used. Where Lisa Jardine’s experience of Temptation in the Archives focused on a 19th-century archivist’s treatment of a 17th-century letter, I would add that the temptation to interfere has always existed, prior to the creation of the archival profession.21

Like the distinction made in the printed story itself, Fisher’s experience creates the possibility to separate truth from narrative. To separate the truth from the narrative of Fisher’s story, taking neither for granted, allows us to reassess what has been lost: the suffering, the anger, the struggle, that motivated the initial recording and circulation of Fisher’s story that has been forgotten. Above all, Mary Fisher’s story is significant because it allows us to understand something more basic than truth or falsehood, it allows us to look prior to the record, in Terry Cook’s words, at the need to record.

The Letter

Epistolary communication was the cornerstone of the early Society of Friends and constitutes the majority of their earliest collected records. Letters between travelling preachers and Quaker converts aided in building unity within a quickly growing movement, and reinforced basic elements of identity.22 As his collected volume of Letters attests, George Fox spent the first decade gaining converts through impassioned speeches and letters, and built a strong network of itinerant preachers who followed suit, known as the ‘Valiant Sixty’ and containing (p.246) such women and men as Elizabeth Hooton, Margaret Fell, Edward Burrough, Richard Hubberthorne, and George Whitehead. As Luella Wright wrote, ‘Group consciousness characterises the entire Quaker literary contribution.’23 Margaret Fell’s house in Swarthmoor Hall was the headquarters for scribal copying and dissemination from 1652 onward, when George Fox first visited and converted her.24 A style of charismatic letter-writing was developed in print as well as manuscript, as Quakers published and disseminated pamphlets in a parallel process to their scribal circulation. The earliest pamphlets published by Friends included copies of letters: A Brief Discovery of a Three-Fold Estate of Antichrist (1652) and a collection of letters written by George Fox, William Dewsbery, James Nayler, and John Whitehead while they were travelling throughout Yorkshire in 1654, Severall Letters Written to the Saints Most High.25 The writings of other Quaker preachers, ultimately authorised by Fox, were carefully organised, published, and dispatched to relevant communities across the north of England in 1652–3, south to London by 1654, to the Continent and overseas as far as Barbados by 1656.26

Mary Fisher became a preacher during this time, and the life of a Quaker preacher was tough. She had first been imprisoned in York Castle in 1652 for shouting at a priest during his sermon: ‘Come down, come down, thou painted beast, come down.’27 The year after she was publicly whipped in Cambridge with her fellow preacher Elizabeth Williams, and over the next three years she spent three prison terms in Yorkshire and Buckinghamshire for similar disruptions. The strength of conviction in the early Quaker preachers like Fisher comes out most of all in their letters. For example, in a letter from April 1657 addressed to the converts she had made in Barbados in 1656, Fisher exhorted to ‘love not your lives unto the death … give up freely, soul and body as a living sacrifice’.28 Fisher’s letters are typical of early Quaker style pioneered by Fox—fearless in their sense of sacrifice, fiery in their evangelism, fixated on the potential of the ‘seed’ of God’s presence in converts, optimistic about the salvation of dedicated Friends.29

(p.247) Fisher’s trip to the Ottoman Empire was spurned by the zeal characterising the first decade of the movement. By April 1657, after she had returned from travelling to Boston and Barbados, Fisher was in London planning a mission eastward with five others: John Perrot, John Luffe, John Buckley, Mary Prince, and Beatrice Beckley. With George Fox’s blessing, they intended to convert the ‘Turks’ and ‘Jews’. Their arrival was confirmed by Sir Thomas Bendyshe, the English ambassador at the time. In a long letter updating the Lord Protector on Ottoman political intrigues, the Quakers only added to his troubles. Although at first Bendyshe welcomed the Quakers, they became ‘scandalous to our nation and religion, (which upon this occasion was censured and scoffed at, by Papists, Jews, and others of a strange faith)’.30 Just as in England, and just as Fisher had at her earliest conversion in 1652, the travelling Quakers had caused ‘disturbances at … divine exercises’, leading to their deportation.31

On 13 March 1658 Mary Fisher wrote a letter from London reflecting on her travels in the Ottoman Empire, addressed to Thomas Killam, John Killam, Thomas Aldam, and their ‘dear wives’. The letter has been transcribed by Sylvia Brown, worth reproducing in full here:

My dear Love salutes you all in one, you have been often in my remembrance since I departed from you, and being now returned into England and many tryalls such as I was never tryed with before, yet have I borne my testimony for the Lord before ye King unto whom I was sent, and he was very noble unto me, and so were all that were about him, he and all that were about him received the words of truth without contradiction…

This introduction is the only mention of the ‘King’, which has been interpreted to mean Mehmed IV. The bulk of the letter is dedicated to a more general assessment of Ottoman hospitality. Most important is Fisher’s assessment that there is the possibility for conversion, a ‘seed’ of Quakerism:

they do dread the name of God many of them and eyes his Messengers, there is a royall seed amongst them, which in time God will raise, they [are] more near truth then many Nations, there is a love begot in [me] towards them which is endlesse, but this is my hope concerning them that he who hath caused me to love them more then many others will also raise his seed in them unto which my love, Neverthelesse though they be called Turkes the seed in them is near unto God, and their kindnesse hath in some measure been shewne towards his servants after ye word of ye Lord was declared to them, they would willingly to have me to stay in the country, and when they could not prevaile with me they proffered me a man and a horse to go five dayes Journey, that was to Constaninople where but I refused and came safe from them the English are more bad most of them, yet there hath a good (p.248) word gone thorow them, & some have received it but they are few, so I rest with my dear love to you all.32

This is the only archival source depicting Fisher’s famous encounter with the ‘King’ of the Turks, later adapted into the story found in New England Judged in 1661.

Although Fisher’s encounter with the great ‘King’ of the Turks has been treated as a climax in the life of a fascinating and fearless woman, filling in the gaps of that story between her letter and Bendyshe’s with an understanding of Ottoman politics at the time, the treatment of women, Christians, and the state of European diplomatic relations, makes her audience with the Sultan harder to imagine than at first glance. The city of Constantinople in 1658 was in a ten-year-old state of bloody upheaval. Mehmed IV became Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in 1648, aged seven, when his father Ibrahim was deposed by rioting Janissaries and strangled to death by his own officials. Marc David Baer has detailed the instability among government and governed alike, and the blame was squarely upon the ‘frail’ shoulders of the young Sultan and his ruling mother, Turhan Hatice.33 Morale was low: the treasuries were depleted, the Ottomans had been defeated by the Venetians, twelve Grand Viziers had been appointed in quick succession and violently retired after failing to fix the situation. In late 1656 a new Grand Vizier was appointed, the eighty-year-old Köprülü Mehmed Pasha, who ushered in a new era of forced stability through an even greater level of brutality. Köprülü authorised a mass executions of rebels, government officials, and the religious elite. It was a bad time to be Ottoman, but also to be Christian. In April 1657, the Orthodox Patriarch Parthenios III was executed by Köprülü for supposedly inciting Christians to rebel against the Sultan.34 In Köprülü’s first year in office as many as ten thousand men were executed; chroniclers described the severed heads decorating public spaces in the capital.

Tensions over Ottoman presence in Transylvania made the job of French, Swedish, German, and Polish ambassadors increasingly difficult. Ambassador Bendyshe worked hard to live through this period quietly, to separate himself from the diplomatic clashes of which he wrote.35 But the life of a European ambassador in Ottoman territory had always been complicated. In the late 15th and during the 16th century as trade opened up between East and West, it became something of a tradition for Ottomans to treat foreigners with what scholars have (p.249) called ‘degrading hospitality’. The treatment of ambassadors was the primary staging ground for this complicated diplomacy, their experiences reflected the reality of Ottoman refusal ‘to treat with western powers on a basis of equality and reciprocity’. Part of the ceremony of admittance to the Sultan involved the foreign envoy being forced to the ground and dragged by his arms before the Sultan in prostration, an protocol absent from Fisher’s account.36

This context need not alter the point of Fisher’s letter, which was meant for circulation amongst Quakers and which spoke more to their potential as converts. In its style and ambitious invocation of the King of the Turks, it is typical of a zealous epistolary culture. While to some extent all epistles imagine their audiences, Fox had initiated a tradition that other Quaker preachers copied that imagined particularly grand audiences. By the time Fisher had returned from her journey these began to appear in print. In 1660 Fox published dual-language epistles in Latin and English to the Emperor of China, the King of Spain, the King of France, the Pope, the King of Muscovy, and the Princes of Germany.37 Quakers often took on this style of lofty address in their own publication. George Bishop included letters to the king and parliament in his Book of Warnings.38 While imprisoned in Rome, John Perrot, a member of Mary Fisher’s travelling party, addressed Mehmed IV in A Visitation of Love, and Gentle Greeting of the Turk.39 John Stubbs and Henry Fell printed a letter in Latin and English to Prester John, the ‘Christian King of Ethiopia’ in advance of a failed attempt to visit him in 1660.40 Imagining new, foreign audiences allowed Quakers to engage with the wider world in a marketplace of print that was already wildly speculative in its representation of other cultures.41

The usefulness of epistolary culture in strengthening the bonds of Quakers near and far would gain a new dimension in 1660, when violence and persecution of Quakers became a state-sanctioned activity after the restoration of Charles II. This dramatic, and brutal, change in affairs had consequences that extended to the papers already collected in the early days of the movement, including Fisher’s letter. That Fisher’s journey to and from the Ottoman Empire was, simply, a safe (p.250) journey, would be used as leverage to argue for mercy against the prospect of martyrdom.

The Archive

At first Fisher’s letter was collected as a document in the history of the earliest movement of Quaker preachers, but it soon became part of a wider effort to collect information on the basis of widespread persecutions known as ‘Sufferings’. Joseph Smith’s Catalogue of Friends’ Books dates sufferings as early as 1653 in George Fox and James Naylor’s Saul’s Errand to Damascus.42 In the year following five other works specifically address the persecution of Friends. But in the 1660s the genre overtook other types of writings produced by Quakers at the time, and shifted from representing the sufferings of a few Quaker leaders, to representing a common experience. As Samuel Fisher, and other Quakers, wrote in a 1660 broadside addressed to Charles II: ‘Never was the like Groans and Cryes of the Fatherles, of Widows and Families under the cruel Oppressions, Afflictions and Sufferings, as it as this day, and hath been since Thou was Proclaimed King of these Dominions.’43 The point was supported with statistics, comparing the 3,179 imprisoned in the years of the Commonwealth to those of the first year of Charles II’s reign alone, 5,000, signed by thirty Quakers who described how they had appealed to Friends across the country to compile their figures.44 Persecution spiked with the Quaker Act of 1662, and again with the Conventicle Act of 1670, singling out the sect as dangerous. Between 1660 and 1689, over ten thousand Friends were imprisoned, and of that total, three hundred and sixty-six did not survive the experience.45

Fisher’s letter survives this transitional period not in her own hand but in the first of a three-volume manuscript collection of early Friends’ letters copied by William Caton (1636–65) and presented to Margaret Fell. Caton was hired to be Fell’s secretary around 1653.46 Around this same time Fell established the ‘Kendal Fund’, also known as the ‘Common Fund’, to pay for the travels of Quaker missionaries, to help the families of those who had been imprisoned, and to cover the expense of printing and distribution. Fell spent her own funds, and money was (p.251) collected from local ‘Meetings’, the name used to describe their collective form of worship, which doubled as local administrative hubs.47

The three volumes of correspondence, including Fisher’s letter, reside among the earliest content of the archive still maintained at the Religious Society of Friends’ library and archive in London. William Caton was essentially the earliest recording clerk in the company, as well as an author and preacher who established Quakerism in the Netherlands.48 The combination of secretary, author, preacher, historian and preserver of Quaker histories was also an element of the next, and arguably most influential, Quaker recording clerk, Ellis Hookes (1635–81). Whereas the bulk of Caton’s energy was eventually channelled into his own evangelical mission, Hookes was officially appointed clerk, and paid for the job.

While Anne Littleboy dates the birth of the Quaker reference library to 1673, the Quaker archive begins much earlier, in the chambers of Ellis Hookes from the late 1650s.49 As David J. Honneyman has noted, appointing Hookes in charge of collecting sufferings was tantamount to appointing him the first Quaker historian for the twenty-four-year period he presided over the growth and maintenance of Quaker records.50 Hookes appears at all phases of Quaker bookish culture and cultural production in positions of authority: getting works published, composing and signings printed works on behalf of others, chasing down missing or presumed missing records for the Meeting of Sufferings over the course of his long career. Over the decades his duties were diverse: Friends are instructed to appeal to him for advice on legal matters, but he is also tasked at times with getting copies of letters patent from the Bermuda Company, co-authoring treatises with George Fox, delivering petitions to members of parliament, and finding French translators for Quaker works.51 Hookes acted as a publisher, and by 1679, he was in business with the Quaker printers Andrew Sowle and Benjamin Clark to publish Quaker books.52

(p.252) In Fox’s 1657 Epistle to ‘All Friends every where’ Quakers were encouraged to record sufferings over refusal to pay tithes, laying the groundwork for how they documented their treatment after 1660:

[T]ake Copies of your Suppoena’s [sic] and Writs, … to shew them to the Court; … keep Copies of your Sufferings in every County… Let a true and a plain Copy of such Suffering be sent up to London…. And if any be beaten or wounded in going to Meetings, or be struck or bruised in Meetings, or taken out of Meetings and Imprisoned; let Copies of such things be taken, and sent as abovesaid, under the hands of Two or Three Witnesses that the Truth may be exalted…53

This emphasis on the repeated copying of court documents and personal testimonies combined with the power accorded to multiple witnesses forms the backbone of Quaker record-keeping habits. Hookes collected and organised them in a central ‘Book of Sufferings’. Fox’s request for a ‘plain Copy’ of relevant records refers to the Quaker style of ‘Plainness of Speech’, which he defined in an earlier 1656 epistle: ‘Use Plainness of Speech and plain Words, single Words in the single Life, pure Words from the pure Life.’54 Ultimately ‘Plainness of Speech’ led to a certain amount of repetition of words and phrases within Quaker record-keeping. So too is repetition caused by records kept through collaboration. ‘Be Diligent’, Fox advised, ‘And those that can write help them that cannot’ when they are ‘moved to speak forth by the Power’ against their persecutors.55

According to Fox, who during this period consolidated his leadership by outliving several of his earliest companions, including Richard Hubberthorne, William Caton, James Nayler, and Edward Burrough, ‘Truth’ ultimately relied on testimony, on records that might be consulted in hindsight.56 In his 1668 ‘Exhortation to Keep to the Ancient Principles of Truth’ he wrote to Friends in the opening lines to ‘keep your Testimony’ repeatedly, ‘against the World’s vain Fashions’, ‘against Hireling Priests, and their Tithes’, ‘against swearing’, ‘against all Loosness’, ‘against all the World’s evil Ways’, ‘against all the filthy Raggs of the old World’, and ‘for your Liberty in Jesus Christ’.57 These are often the themes of printed pamphlets, but they are each drawn from ledgers Hookes kept, known as the ‘Book of Sufferings’.

Hookes’ record-keeping habits resemble the kind of ‘waste’ keeping and transfer methods used by merchants as far back as medieval Italy.58 The system (p.253) was promoted in 17th-century guides to bookkeeping, for instance, in Richard Dafforne’s Merchants Mirror (1660).59 Clerks like Hookes were to simplify the collected documents, which included quantified accounts of the loss of time, property, and occasionally, the loss of life in prison. Books of Sufferings were organised first by region: each county was given its own section. Copies of relevant legal documents (warrants for arrest, mittimuses, letters written by Quakers to the relevant authorities) were included chronologically. Each section concluded with alphabetical index of sufferers. A few localities have loose papers bound in with them still, containing hastily written accounts of sufferings (‘waste’ in terms of mercantile record-keeping) crossed out to denote that they had been entered into the fair copy. In spite of its inconsistencies, Quaker bureaucracy worked in two directions, requesting information and correspondence from Quakers far and wide, which was then collected, copied, summarised, and transmitted from a central authority in London back out into the world. During this time, Mary Fisher’s story was recopied from Caton’s correspondence collection into Hookes’ Book of Sufferings.

George Fox further formalised the system by which records were collected and seen to publication in the 1670s, setting up two committees that worked closely together. The Meeting for Sufferings oversaw the collection of sufferings and the disbursement of aid in terms of money and legal advice for persecuted Quakers, and the Second Day’s Morning Meeting oversaw (and censored) publications by Quakers. Hookes was a member of both committees.60 In 1672 there was a collection taken up to pay for the costs of Friends’ travels overseas, the distribution of books, and ‘packetts of Post Letters with account of generall Sufferings and Charges of Recording and often transcribing the same’.61 A 1675 memorandum from Hookes and the Meeting for Sufferings revived their call for diligent record-keeping. In the same language that motivated Fox and Hubberthorne to take to print in 1653, the urgency around record collection was about accountability; ‘That friends Sufferings be layd upon those in power.’ In addition, ‘Judgements of God’ were to be collected, accounts of the tragedies which had befallen those who had dared to persecute the Quakers.

Before encouraging Friends to write, the memorandum included a few practical items: Friends should not ‘Judge nor reflect upon one another’ in the course of their persecution, they should alert their quarterly or monthly meeting upon arrest, they should know their rights ‘especially to be capable of laying it on the (p.254) heads of theire Persecutors for exceeding theire owne Law in Severity’. ‘[F] riends who suffer are advised not to let out their minds into too much expectation of outward reliefe’, they should ‘be carefull of violent struggling’ when arrested, and finally they should direct any legal queries to the Meeting for Sufferings. The second half of the memorandum included four points on the back and forth of record-keeping: suggesting each meeting nominate a clerk to ‘draw up’ sufferings, instructing the sufferings to be transcribed into one large book and to be ‘reviewed by the severall Counties respectively’, coordinating the return of those sufferings to London to be reviewed by a central body prior to publication, and finally, for ‘friend of each County … to defray their proportion of charges’.62 The memorandum concluded with repeating the importance of having multiple witnesses to attest to the sufferings themselves: ‘where any deep Sufferings happen, the monthly or Quarterly Meeting may … send up one or two or three faithfull friends, with theire Case so stated to be presented, to attend those in power’.

In 1676, an epistle by Fox emphasised the collaborative effort involved in keeping records as accurate as possible, for the purpose of posterity:

And now friends all you that hath been ancient Labourers and hath knowne the dealings of the Lord this twenty yeares more or less as I have often said to you, to draw up […]

And what more any can say if their Country men that know them more then is in the booke of what the Lord hath carried them through in their Sufferings or travells they may add to it.63

Alongside the collection of sufferings, other documentation about Quaker lives was flourishing within Hookes’ chamber. A meeting minute from 1668 had specified that the collection of all births, marriages, and burials be collected at each monthly meeting, and duplicated by each quarterly meeting.64

All in all, these instructions gave Ellis Hookes a full-time job in compiling a vast amount of information in his chamber over the course of his career. An inventory made upon his death in 1681 gave a sense of the shape of Friends’ archives to that date, intermingled with printed works both by Quakers and printed for reference: bibles, Poulton’s Statutes, Cotton’s Concordance, books of births, burials, marriages, sufferings, minute-books organised by monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings, letter-books, ‘bundles of papers of friends sufferings both in England & beyond ye seas’.65 Another list added to the above ‘15 bound Bookes of Friends’ writing of several years entitled by he said friends respectively, and 11 old Books (p.255) of friendly persons’. Overall the list contained the equivalent documentation to be found in any local council archive to this day.66

It took a year for Hookes’ predecessor, Richard Richardson (1622/3–1689), to sift through everything left behind.67 Two major problems that arose were a back-up of material—‘increased in Bulk by letters from p[ar]ticular persons—and a lack of consistency in the records, suffering from ‘neglect of settling down the time how long friends have been prisoners’.68 The increasing bulk proved Quakers extreme among religiously motivated textual cultures of their time. But at the same time, their system was a necessity of a godly culture reliant upon print taken to new extremes by virtue of its emphasis on individual testimony.69 Even in 1683, Fox was still to be heard at a meeting proposing ‘ye printing of sufferings weekly; & that fr[ien]ds be exact in sending them up that are most grievous. That fr[ien]ds suffrings may be thrown into the high field, as suffer in ye high field.’ Richardson continued the work of Hookes: indexing volumes of sufferings, furnishing information for the publication of new sufferings, continuing to maintain the Friends’ reference library, publishing polemical tracts in his own right, in other words, maintaining the continuum of archive to printed book.70

The Books

Just as they linked their initial will to publish to the prophets of old, the Quaker system of recording testimonies was deeply indebted to the religious publications they read. Behind such collection and management strategies there was the motivation which Quakers drew from their readings of the Bible, and crucially, from John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments, popularly known as the ‘Book of Martyrs’. It was a bestselling work, chained in churches and published in many editions, formats, and abridgements.71 Foxe’s Actes and Monuments was, like the Bible, (p.256) a meeting place for extremes, owned by Charles II, and along the gamut of sectaries from Prynne to Lilburne.72 Likewise John Foxe provided George Fox with a template for Christian life-writing. The ‘Book of Martyrs’ gave Quakers counterparts to conflate with their own experiences.73 As one tract put it, ‘all along, even to this day and age, the true witnesses of God have suffered persecution, yea and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution’.74

The ‘Book of Martyrs’ was an important source for constructing an unbroken lineage from the earliest Christians to the Society of Friends. In 1661 Ellis Hookes published the first edition of a pamphlet, The Spirit of the Martyrs is Risen, a collection of ‘things being taken out of the book of Martyrs’ and rearranged into themes: ‘working on Holy dayes’, ‘eating flesh in Lent’, refusing to pay tithes or honour the authority of priests, allowing female preachers, and ‘saying that the gift of God [Scripture] could not be bought nor sold for money’. Without mention of the Friends at all, Hookes rearranged the ‘Book of Martyrs’ into headings supporting each Quaker belief. By 1667 the work had grown into from sixteen to sixty-nine pages, co-authored now with George Fox, newly entitled The Arreignment of Popery. A standard work of Quaker reading, it was republished in 1669, 1679, 1684, and 1699.75

Like Quaker writings, the ‘Book of Martyrs’ was not about accuracy but about force.76 The call to endure suffering was part of the ‘Book of Martyrs’ from the beginning, as was the blueprint for the process by which stories were collected and assembled, and relayed not as history but as a kind of spiritual exercise, allowing readers to inhabit the roles of ‘primitive’ Christian martyrs. By the 1632 edition of the ‘Book of Martyrs’, its force had been intensified in what Damian Nussbaum has shown to be ‘an unequivocal call for martyrdom’. ‘It is impossible to live godly and not suffer persecution’, was written in its new conclusion.77 This first appearance of Fisher’s story in print, in George Bishop’s New England Judged (1661), fit within the expanding genre of Quaker writing, and the wider ecosystem of dissident works drawing from the ‘Book of Martyrs’.

(p.257) Although George Bishop never left England, he had a wide range of experiences to draw from around the world, thanks to the efficiency of the records maintained by Ellis Hookes, and the availability of Friends’ books. He was a colourful character, a former soldier in the parliamentary army, an advocate of regicide at the Putney Debates, dismissed as a spy during the first Anglo-Dutch War for ‘intermeddling in foreign affairs’, and criticised among Friends after his conversion around 1654 for his outspoken ways, Bishop’s public persona was more political than religious when the rest of the Quakers were often the reverse. He advocated religious toleration, for which he lobbied in person and in print, and the forcefulness and popularity of his writings show the extent to which Quaker networks of communication could be used even by those who were outside of London, and moreover, who occasionally felt afoul of authority.78

New England Judged brought together the stories of Quakers all over the world. Bishop moved from west to east, gathering together Quaker experiences from Europe to Constantinople, Moscow, Jerusalem, where he then turned back westward towards New England, to the ‘five or six hundred Miles on foot from Virginia to New-England, through Uncouth Passages, Vast Wilderness’. His direct style of speech in the work was ultimately addressed to the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony with righteous anger over the executions of four Quakers: Marmaduke Stephenson and William Robinson (1659), Mary Dyer (1660), and William Leddra (1661). His purpose in scaling the globe was to show that the Puritans were unmatched in their cruelty: ‘I have no Nation with you to compare, I have no People with you to parallel.’79 In typical Quaker exuberance, because Bishop wanted to accuse someone of being uniquely brutal, he compared them to everyone Quakers had ever met.

New England Judged was not only a printed archive, but a culmination of a series of pamphlets protesting the treatment of Quakers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, attempting to bring the extremities of religious clashes on the peripheries of the emerging English Empire to the attention of Charles II.80 The earliest was Francis Howgill’s Popish Inquisition Newly Erected in New-England (1659), which justified Friends’ persistence in the colony where they were persistently (p.258) banned with a gloss from the Old Testament ‘Amos must prophesie at Bethel, though he be forbidden.’81 Howgill copied the relevant legislation that banished Quakers from the colony. He concluded with the ‘old and true saying; “’Tis not the punishment, but the cause makes a Martyr’” (his emphasis).82

New England Judged was one of the most important works in this struggle to lobby parliament to order the governors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to lessen the harsh treatment of Quakers. It gathered together the materials from the array of pamphlets that had circulated before it, it was expanded a few months after its initial publication in 1661 and again 1667, and it was republished in 1703, recycled in other volumes from the time, and circulated in England in addition to being shipped to the colonies.83 Its popularity contributed to its status, as Carla Pestana has shown, as a reliable source for Quaker historians for centuries to come.

It is hard to tell whether Bishop’s information came first-, second-, or third-hand, whether he spoke or corresponded with the preachers themselves, drew from manuscript minute books, or culled information from the wider array of pamphlets available. Bishop’s book began with roughly the same story as the others, of the first Quaker visit to Boston in July 1656, by Mary Fisher and Anne Austin. Arriving from Barbados on the Swallow, officers immediately boarded and searched the ship. Fisher and Austin’s timing was terrible: a month prior to their arrival Ann Hibbins had been executed for witchcraft—Hibbins would be immortalised in The Scarlet Letter as the old crone responsible for leading Hester astray.84 As threatening as any witch, Fisher and Austin were immediately arrested. The Boston council made three demands in response: to the jailer, who was to imprison Fisher and Austin, to the common executioner, who was to burn the books they carried, and to Captain Simon Kempthorn of the Swallow, who was to take Fisher and Austin back to Barbados at his own expense or go to prison himself. Worse still, with the memory of Ann Hibbins fresh in the minds of the council, the women were searched for witch marks.85

The description of their treatment in Ellis Hookes’ handwriting in the manuscript Book of Sufferings is truly horrific, with its own emphases added by underlining:

They ordered certaine Overseers to search those Two Innocent Women for Witches … modesty will not permit, but so farr as may be was as followeth. They stripped them starke naked, & searched them from head to foot, searching every part even amongst their hair, and between their Toes, misusing and abusing their bodies, in a (p.259) very gross manner, in so much as Anne Austin who was a marryed Wife, & had born five children said she had not suffered so much in the birth of them all as she had donne in this barbarously cruel searching, one of them before they had thus searched them was commonly reported to be a Man in Womans apparell, & though they had thus abused them, & were witnesse themselves, that what they had said was false, and the two women in nothing were found guilty.86

The underlined passages depicting the brutality of Mary and Anne’s sexual assault were reproduced by Humphrey Norton, George Fox, and adapted in his own style, by George Bishop.87

Beyond letters, beyond archives, this is the final context in which Fisher’s letter on the Turks must be placed: to hold the colonial government accountable for the treatment of the Quaker women, and ultimately for the execution of four Quakers. After this, the story of Fisher’s experiences among the Ottomans immediately follows to provide a concept of hospitality. The ability of printed works to reconfigure the stories organised within archives, as Bishop did with Mary Fisher’s letter, cannot be overlooked. Bishop tied up the episode in New England Judged describing how Mary could leave the Sultan’s encampment ‘without a Guard, witherto she came without the least hurt to the Commendation and praise of the Discipline of that Army, the glory of the great Turk, and his great Renown, and your Everlasting shame and Contempt’ (his emphasis).88 As Sylvia Brown has pointed out, the chief purpose of New England Judged was to highlight the ‘barbarity in the supposed regions of Christian civility’.89 The stark contrast is repeated: immediately after Fisher’s story comes that of William Robinson in the Ottoman Empire, who was beaten by friars and saved by ‘an ancient Turk’.90 A few years after visiting Constantinople, Robinson was executed in Boston in 1660 for his beliefs.

At the moment of its publication, New England Judged and its companion pamphlets were a part of one of the few successful Quaker efforts of their time. Amidst a crisis of persecution in England, petitioning to Charles II on behalf of Quakers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony saw results. In 1661 the king wrote ordering them to suspend their harshest laws, and they did. George Bishop’s book had impact when the struggle for toleration otherwise took decades to achieve.91

(p.260) Afterlives

The next time Fisher’s story featured was in the 1696 publication of William Sewel’s History of the Rise, Increase, and Progress of the Christian People Called Quakers. As Corns and Lowenstein have noted, ‘Sewel’s work illustrates the growing tendency to omit the excesses of the early Quakers’, but Fisher’s story made the cut.92 Sewel copied almost verbatim from Bishop, adding however the name of the Sultan. From this point on, the story was enshrined in Quaker histories, and the occasional epic poem, as in ‘Mary Fisher: or the Quaker Maiden and the Grand Turk’ published around 1845, and one of the ‘Lays of Quakerdom’ published around 1855.93 Sewel’s account informed these and is the direct link to modern use, as in the first volume of the great Quaker historian William Braithwaite’s definitive history.94 All scholarly revivals of Fisher’s story after this period draw from the same pool of materials, most often Braithwaite and Sewel, and the Oxford Dictionary of Biography lifts the story from Bishop.

But this is not a story about lies—important truths can be borne out by the emblematic stories such as Fisher’s, and that story is still incompatible with the long history of scribes and notaries accused of falsehood and forgery. As Kathryn Burns describes archives, they are ‘less like mirrors than like chessboards’.95 The point is not to look for a reflection so much as to read a complicated series of interdependencies between the disparate pieces. Mary Fisher was a fascinating figure and led a fascinating life, she was truly a Visionary Woman deserving remembrance.96 The reality of her travels remain important within Frederick Tolles’, and more recently Jordan Landes’, bustling accounts of transatlantic Quakers, where between 1655 and 1700 no less than 148 Quaker preachers travelled around the Atlantic, founding communities of their own in the colonies, spreading their books and papers to any who would accept them, and shouting down those who would not. Carla Pestana has shown how Bishop’s popular book, and Fisher’s story, played a key role in a 17th-century Quaker historiography that moved ‘away from the prophetic tradition, entering a new phase, that of the inoffensive martyr’ while trashing an entire historiographical tradition of Puritan investment in a ‘Shining City upon a Hill’. Sylvia Brown has pointed out Bishop’s reliance upon distance, his depiction of a wider world beyond the Church of England and her dissenters, was crucial to expanding (p.261) Quaker notions of tolerance.97 David Vlasblom has developed that argument, showing Fisher’s experiences marked ‘an emergence among Quakers of a collective concept of Islam … that was fundamentally different from the predominating English and Western perceptions’.98 None of these interpretations of the work lose their validity if Fisher never met Mehmed—the uses of the letter were forceful in their own right. It is the cause which makes the martyr, and the archive alike.

The Quaker archive was at first a site of desperate struggle, its existence constantly threatened, chronicling bodies imprisoned, and properties confiscated. Mortality and erasure lie at the heart of the matter of collecting documents, and not the mortality of ‘Bills of Mortality’ printed on a weekly basis which contained lists of those that had died from ‘griping in the guts’ to ‘grief’, from ‘scurvy’ to ‘spotted feaver’.99 Typical Bills of Mortality were of no use to dissenting communities such as the Friends: they did not include categories marking deaths in prison, or from injuries sustained thereafter. Writing to add to a body of statistics and stories where there otherwise were none was the reason George Fox desired ‘such Testimonies of Friends as are deceased, let them be Recorded, that so the Testimony of the Lord through his Servants may not be lost … to future Generations’.100 The recording clerks, Hookes and Richardson, maintained that work when the Quakers were under the greatest threat of survival. As the treatment of Quakers and other dissenting communities lessened in its brutality, custody of the records passed to Benjamin Bealing, and to his assistant Joseph Besse (1683–1757). In 1753 Besse published the ultimate Quaker version of Foxe’s monumental ‘Book of Martyrs’, A Collection of the Sufferings of the People called Quakers, in two large folio volumes.101

Preparation for the work had been undertaken by Bealing and Besse as early as 1727, and it took decades for Besse to index the forty-four volumes of sufferings as well as to track down information from different counties to fill in serious gaps in the information contained.102 Listing his reasons for publication, Besse reflected upon nearly a hundred years’ worth of motivation behind Quaker record-keeping and publication habits: ‘To testify our Regard to the Memory of the Sufferers … To exhibit to Posterity a Variety of rare and singular instances of a (p.262) People remarkable for their Christian Zeal.’103 Mary Fisher’s story took pride of place in the Preface to the Reader of the first volume as well as in a section of its own covering Quaker missions east.104

While it will always be impossible to know what Mary Fisher said to Mehmed IV, or if she said anything at all, the reasons for the story’s preservation and publication over the centuries prove that the space between truth and narrative is as crucial to preserve as the contents of archive themselves—crucial to preserve in order that they might be filled by the needs of readers over time. This is true whether the documents are used in the imagining of a collective religious identity, or a collective national identity; be they records kept to consolidate an empire’s power, or to record the objections of the oppressed or the outsider.105

Towards the end of Fisher’s story, as it was recorded in New England Judged, Fisher herself seems to grapple with exactly the difficulty of establishing truth within, yet separate, from narrative. And she does so as a matter of context:

[The Ottomans] asked her, What she thought of their Prophet Mehomet? … she said, That they might judge of him to be true or false, according as the Words and Prophesies he spake were either true or false, Saying, If the Word that the Prophet speaketh come to pass, then shall ye know that the Lord hath sent that Prophet, but if it come not to pass, then shall ye know that the Lord never sent him—To which they confessed and said, It was Truth.

The nature of truth agreed upon between the Quaker and her Islamic audience is that it comes from hindsight, and consensus. This kind of truth requires an archive: in order to weigh the truthfulness of statements across time, they must be well documented and their audiences must be well informed. In their obsessive collection of records, testimonies, and court documents attesting to persecution, the Quakers seem to be aware that through the sheer weight of evidence, the act of collecting creates its own truths.


(1) T. Cook, ‘Electronic Records, Paper Minds: The Revolution in Information Management and Archives in the Post-Custodial and Post-Modernist Era’, Archives and Manuscripts, 22 (1994), 302.

(2) S. Brown, ‘The Radical Travels of Mary Fisher: Walking and Writing in the Universal Light’, in S. Brown (ed.), Women, Gender and Radical Religion in Early Modern Europe (Leiden, Brill, 2007), p. 53.

(3) G. Bishop, New England Judged, Not by Man’s, but the Spirit of the Lord: and the Summe Sealed Up of New-England’s Persecution (London, Robert Wilson, 1661), p. 20.

(4) E. Yale, ‘The History of Archives: The State of the Discipline’, Book History, 18 (2015), 332, 335.

(5) M. Stoyle, ‘Remembering the English Civil Wars’, in P. Gray and K. Oliver (eds), The Memory of Catastrophe (Manchester and New York, University of Manchester Press, 2004), p. 19.

(6) D. Cressy, England on Edge: Crisis and Revolution 1640–1642 (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 281–91.

(7) B. Hagglund, ‘Quakers and the Printing Press’, in P. Dandelion and S. D. Angell (eds), Early Quakers and their Theological Thought 1647–1723 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 32–47; M. Bell, ‘Mary Westwood, Quaker Publisher’, Publishing History, 23 (1988), 7; K. Peters, Print Culture and the Early Quakers (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 1, 11; K. Peters, ‘The Dissemination of Quaker Pamphlets in the 1650s’, in R. Harms, J. Raymond, and J. Salman (eds), Not Dead Things: The Dissemination of Popular Print in England and Wales, Italy and the Low Countries, 1500–1820 (Leiden, Brill, 2013), pp. 213–28.

(8) P. Dandelion, An Introduction to Quakerism (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 6; H. Hinds, George Fox and Early Quaker Culture (Manchester and New York, Manchester University Press, 2011), pp. 17–19.

(9) G. F. Nuttall, The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1946), p. 154.

(10) T. L. Underwood, Primitivism, Radicalism, and the Lamb’s War: The Baptist–Quaker Conflict in Seventeenth Century England (New York, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 4.

(11) G. Fox and R. Hubberthorne, Truth’s Defence against the Refined Subtilty of the Serpent Held Forth in Divers Answers to Severall Queries Made by Men (called Ministers) in the North (London, 1653).

(12) Cited in R. Moore, The Light in Their Consciences: Early Quakers in Britain, 1646–1666 (University Park, The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000), p. 26.

(13) William Braithwaite describes the origins and changes in the meanings of the words, focusing in particular on Monck’s speech to Parliament in 1660 in The Second Period of Quakerism (York, William Sessions Ltd, 1979), pp. 4–6.

(14) B. Reay, The Quakers and the English Revolution (Southampton, Camelot Press Ltd, 1985), pp. 4, 44, 95.

(15) A. L. Stoler, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2010), p. 47.

(16) A. Johns, ‘How to Acknowledge a Revolution’, American Historical Review, 107 (2002), 124; E. Eisenstein, ‘An Unacknowledged Revolution Revisited’, American Historical Review, 107 (2002), 91–2.

(17) J. Peacey, Print and Public Politics in the English Revolution (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 18, 403.

(18) J. R. Knott, Discourses of Martyrdom in English Literature 1563–1694 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 218; H. Barbour, The Quakers in Puritan England (New Haven, CT, and London, Yale University Press, 1964), pp. 208–9.

(19) David Runyon’s ‘Appendix: Types of Quaker Writings by Year—1650–1699’ provides an excellent visualisation of this, in H. Barbour and A. O. Roberts (eds), Early Quaker Writings 1650–1700 (Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973), pp. 567–76; Richard T. Vann among others has written eloquently on sufferings from this period onward in ‘Friends Sufferings—Collected and Recollected’, Quaker History, 61 (1972), 24–35.

(20) N. Z. Davis, Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and Their Tellers in Sixteenth Century France (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1987), p. 3.

(21) L. Jardine, Temptation in the Archives (London, UCL Press, 2015), pp. 15–17.

(22) K. Peters, ‘Patterns of Quaker Authorship’, in T. Corns and D. Loewenstein (eds), Dissenting Literature in Seventeenth Century England (Portland, OR, Frank Cass & Co., 1995), p. 8; D. Gwyn, Apocalypse of the Word: The Life and Message of George Fox, 1624–1691 (London, Friends United Press, 1986); P. Dandelion, Introduction to Quakerism (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007).

(23) L. Wright, The Literary Life of the Early Friends, 1650–1725 (New York, Columbia University Press, 1932), p. 10.

(27) Brown, ‘The Radical Travels of Mary Fisher’, p. 41; J. Raine (ed.) Depositions from the Castle of York Relating to Offences Committed in the Northern Counties in the 17th Century, Surtees Society, 40 (Durham, Frances Andrews, 1861), p. 54; she also features in S. Davies, Unbridled Spirits: Women of the English Revolution 1640–1660 (London, Women’s Press, 1998), and while imprisoned in York Castle she subscribed to a printed work with her fellow prisoners Thomas Aldam, Elizabeth Hooten, William Pears, Benjamin Nicholson, and Jane Holmes in False Prophets and False Teachers Described (London, 1652).

(28) Library of the Society of Friends, London [hereafter: LSF]: Mary Fisher, ‘To Friends in Barbados, London April 9 1657’, Portfolio Manuscripts 33/112,113. Also quoted in P. Mack, Visionary Women: Ecstatic Prophecy in Seventeenth-Century England (London, University of California Press, 1992), p. 169.

(30) ‘State Papers, 1658: July (6 of 7)’, in A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, 7 vols, ed. Thomas Birch (London, Fletcher Gyles, 1742), vol. 7, March 1658–May 1660, pp. 284–95, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/thurloe-papers/vol7/pp284-295 (accessed 25 March 2015).

(31) K. Thomas, ‘Women and the Civil War Sects’, Past & Present, 13 (1958), 42–62.

(32) Brown, ‘The Radical Travels of Mary Fisher’, p. 53; LSF: Caton MSS, vol. 320/1, f. 164.

(33) M. D. Baer, Honored by the Glory of Islam: Conversion and Conquest in Ottoman Europe (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 25–39.

(34) Baer, Honored by the Glory of Islam, pp. 50–77; J.-P. Ghobrial, The Whispers of Cities: Information Flows in Istanbul, London, and Paris in the Age of William Trumbull (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 27.

(35) ‘State Papers, 1658: July (6 of 7)’, in A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, vol. 7: March 1658–May 1660, ed. Thomas Birch (London, Fletcher Gyles, 1742), 284–95, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/thurloe-papers/vol7/pp284-295 (accessed 25 March 2015); D. Goffman, Britons in the Ottoman Empire 1642–1660 (Seattle and London, University of Washington Press, 1998), p. 200.

(36) E. Eldem, ‘Foreigners at the Threshold of Felicity: the Reception of Foreigners in Ottoman Istanbul’, in D. Calabi and S. Ruk Christensen (eds), Cities and Cultural Exchange in Early Modern Europe 1400–1700 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 119–20.

(37) G. Fox, For the Emperour of China and his Subordinate Kings & Princes (London, Robert Wilson, 1660); Papers Given For in English & Latine to the Magistrates of the Isle of Milita, and to the Emperour of the House of Austria and to all the Princes under Him. To the King of France and to all Powers That be under Him: To the King of Spain, and lastly to the Pope (London, Robert Wilson, 1660).

(38) G. Bishop, A Book of Warnings (London, Robert Wilson, 1661).

(39) J. Perrot, A Visitation of Love, Gentle Greeting of the Turk (London, Thomas Simmons, 1660).

(41) John-Paul Ghobrial begins his account of diplomatic information exchange between Istanbul, Paris, and London by considering the spread of information via sensational stories like The Turkish Secretary (1688); Ghobrial, The Whispers of Cities, pp. 1–5.

(42) Smith, A Descriptive Catalogue of Friends Books (London, J. Smith, 1867), p. 692.

(43) S. Fisher et al., This is to thee O KING and thy Council (London, Printed for Robert Wilson, 1660).

(44) For the King and both Houses of Parliament; The True State and condition of the People of God, called Quakers (London, 1661).

(45) C. Horle, The Quakers and the English Legal System (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988), pp. 46–55.

(46) N. McDowell, ‘Caton, William (1636–1665)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004). George Fox wrote in a journal entry for 1656, ‘ye north att ye first boare ye charges of all ye printinge for severall yeares’, Wright, The Literary Life of the Early Friends, p. 75.

(47) B. Y. Kunze, ‘Fell, Margaret (1614–1702)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004).

(48) See for instance William I. Hull’s The Rise of Quakerism in Amsterdam, 1655–1665 (Swarthmore, PA, Swarthmore College, 1932), one of five volumes Hull dedicated to the study of Quakers in the Low Countries.

(49) A. Littleboy, A History of the Friends’ Reference Library, with Notes on Early Printers and Printing in the Society of Friends (London, Offices of the Society of Friends, 1921), p. 1.

(50) D. J. Honneyman, ‘Ellis Hookes (1635–1681) First Recording Clerk of the Society of Friends’, Quaker History, 72 (1983), 43–54.

(51) Through his trade as a scrivener, Hookes would have been a ‘minor legal official’: Honneyman, ‘Ellis Hookes’, p. 47; with George Fox, An Epistle from the People in Scorn Called Quakers to all People upon the Earth to Read over That They May See What the People called Quakers Hold Concerning God, Christ, His Death, His Resurrection, His Blood, Concerning his Offering, Redemption, Salvation, Justification, Faith, and Hope (London, 1668).

(52) E. Burrough, A Tender Salutation of Perfect Love unto the Elect of God the Royal Seed (London, Printed for the Author, 1661), p. 2; E. Burrough, The Memorable Works of a Son of Thunder and Consolation (London, 1672), p. 2; Honneyman, ‘Ellis Hookes’, p. 52.

(53) G. Fox, ‘Epistle 140’, in Epistles (London, T. Sowle, 1698), pp. 109–10, and repeated in Epistle 141 (1657), ‘To Friends in Holland’, in Epistle 253 (1667), to Friends ‘in all your Islands and Plantations’, in Epistle 258 (1668).

(55) Fox, ‘Epistle 264’, Epistles, p. 293.

(56) Barbour, The Quakers in Puritan England, p. 227. For a comprehensive study on Fox’s complicated leadership within the movement, see R. Bailey, New Light on George Fox and Early Quakerism: The Making and Unmaking of a God (San Francisco, CA, Mellen Research University Press, 1992).

(57) Fox, ‘Epistle 263’, Epistles, p. 274.

(58) M. Hussey, ‘Business Manuscripts in the Library of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’, Bulletin of the Business Historical Society, 10 (1936), 48–51.

(59) R. Dafforne, The Merchants Mirrour Or, Directions for the Perfect Ordering and Keeping of his Accounts. Framed by Way of Debitor, after the (so Termed) Italian Manner (London, Nicholas Bourn, 1660).

(60) Braithwaite, The Second Period of Quakerism, pp. 280–2. T. O’Malley, ‘The Press and Quakerism 1653–1659’, Journal of the Friends’ Historical Society, 54 (1979), 169–84; T. O’Malley ‘“Defying the Powers and Tempering the Spirit”: A Review of Quaker Control over their Publications 1672–1689’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 33 (1982), 72–88.

(61) LSF: ‘Generall Meeting at Devonshire House the 29th 3rd Month’, Devonshire House MM MGR/11b2, 6.

(62) LSF: ‘Memorandum … 18th [October] 1675’, Meeting for Sufferings. Vol. I 1675–80 YM/MfS/M/1.

(63) LSF: ‘A Letter from GF dating the 17th 3d Mo 1676’, Devonshire House MM MGR/11b2, 44.

(64) LSF: ‘At a Meeting of Friends at Devonshire House the 25th of the 3 Month 1668’, Letter Book of Early Friends, MS Vol. 47, 34.

(65) LSF: ‘Of the 1st Month 1682’, Meeting for Sufferings. Vol. II 1680–3.

(66) Adam Smyth has written of parish records as early forms of life-writing in Autobiography in Early Modern England (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010). Recently Kristianna Polder has drawn from extensive marriage certificates Quakers kept to describe the ways in which Quakers created a matrimonial culture of ‘communal accountability towards holy behaviour’, Matrimony in the True Church: The Seventeenth-Century Quaker Marriage Approbation Discipline (London and New York, Ashgate, 2015), pp. 7, 31.

(67) G. Skidmore, ‘Richardson, Richard (1622/3–1689)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004).

(68) LSF: ‘6th of the 4th mo. 1682’, Meeting for Sufferings Vol I 1675–1680 YM/MfS/M/1.

(69) A. Cambers, Godly Reading: Print, Manuscript, and Puritanism in England, 1580–1720 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 2–3.

(70) N. Penney, ‘Our Recording Clerks, ii: Richard Richardson’, Journal of the Friends’ Historical Society, 1 (1903–4), 62–8.

(71) J. King, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and Early Modern Print Culture (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 1–3, 150; E. Evenden and T. S. Freeman, Religion and the Book in Early Modern England: The Making of Foxe’s ‘Book of Martyrs’ (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 335.

(74) [Alexander Parker], A Testimony…with Some Reasons Why Margaret Hambleton Doeth Deny the Presbyterians (London?, 1658?).

(75) Hookes also published Christian Pleas against persecution (London, 1676), drawing from works by Church Fathers, philosophers, Charles I and Charles II to argue for religious toleration.

(76) S. Felch, ‘Shaping the Reading in the Acts and Monuments’, in D. Loades (ed.), John Foxe and the English Reformation (Aldershot, Scolar Press, 1997), p. 61; P. Collinson, ‘Truth and Legend: John Foxe’s Veracity’, in A. C. Duke and C. A. Tamse (eds), Clio’s Mirror: Historiography in Britain and the Netherlands (Zutphen, De Walburg Pers, 1985); T. Bezman, To Live Ancient Lives: The Primitivist Dimension in Puritanism (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1988).

(77) D. Nussbaum, ‘Appropriating Martyrdom: Fears of Renewed Persecution and the 1632 Edition of Acts and Monuments’, in D. Loades (ed.), John Foxe and the English Reformation (Aldershot, Scolar Press, 1997), p. 178.

(78) M. S. Feola, ‘Bishop, George (d. 1668)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004).

(80) They are: F. Howgill, The Popish Inquisition Newly Erected in New England (London, Thomas Simmons, 1659); H. Norton, New England’s Ensigne: It being the Account of Cruelty (London, 1659); J. Rous et. al., New-England a Degenerate Plant (London, 1659); G. Fox, The Secret Works of a Cruel People Made Manifest (London, 1659); E. Burrough and Francis Howgill, The Heart of New-England Hardned through Wickedness (London, 1659); J. Norton, The Heart of New-England Rent at the Blasphemies of the Present Generation (London, 1660); M. Stephenson, A Call from Death to Life (London, 1660); J. Nicholson, The Standard of the Lord Lifted Up in New-England (London, 1660); E. Burrough, A Declaration of the Sad and Great Persecution and Martyrdom of the People of God, Called Quakers, in New England for the Worshipping of God (London, 1661); I. Pennington, An Examination of the Grounds or Causes, Which Are Said to Induce the Court of Boston in New-England to Make That Order or Law of Banishment upon Pain of Death against the Quakers (1660).

(83) C. Pestana, ‘Quaker Executions as Myth and History’, Journal of American History, 80 (1993), 448.

(84) A. Games, Witchcraft in Early North America (London, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010), pp. 40–1.

(85) J. Besse, A Collection of the Sufferings of the People called Quakers…Volume II (London, Luke Hinde, 1753), pp. 177–8; Brown, ‘The Radical Travels of Mary Fisher’, p. 44.

(86) LSF: New England, 1656. Microfilm Meeting Minutes 1650–80, vol. 2, p. 96.

(90) D. Vlasblom, ‘Islam in Early Modern Quaker Experience and Writing’, Quaker History, 100 (2011), 5.

(91) ‘Letter Sent from Charles the 2nd King of England to New England, 9 Sept 1661’, Collections of the Massachussetts Historical Society, 39 (1871) 159–60; Pestana, ‘The Quaker Executions as Myth and History’, p. 442; Fox, The Secret Works, p. 1.

(92) Corns and Loewenstein, The Emergence of Quaker Writing, p. 140, footnote 11; see also W. I. Hull, William Sewel of Amsterdam, 1653–1720 (Philadelphia, PA, Swarthmore College Monographs on Quaker History, 1933).

(93) R. Plumley, ‘Visit of Mary Fisher to the Sultan Mohammed IV: At Adrianople, 1658’, in Lays of Quakerdom (Philadelphia, PA, Biddle Press, 1854?) p. 36. Ruth Plumley was a pseudonym of Benjamin Rush Plumley (1816–87).

(94) Braithwaite, Beginnings of Quakerism, p. 423.

(95) K. Burns, Into the Archive: Writing and Power in Colonial Peru (Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 2013), p. 124.

(96) S. Villani, ‘Fisher, Mary (c.1623–1698)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004). Phyllis Mack rightly includes her in Visionary Women.

(97) F. B. Tolles, ‘The Transatlantic Quaker Community in the Seventeenth Century’, Huntingdon Library Quarterly, 14 (1951), 239–58; J. Landes, London Quakers in the Trans-Atlantic World: The Creation of an Early Modern Community (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015); C. G. Pestana, ‘The Quaker Executions as Myth and History’, Journal of American History, 80 (1993), 441–69; C. G. Pestana, ‘The City Upon a Hill Under Siege: The Puritan Perception of the Quaker Threat to Massachusetts Bay, 1656–1661’, New England Quarterly, 56 (1983), 323–53.

(98) D. Vlasblom, ‘Islam in Early Modern Quaker Experience’, Quaker History, 100 (2011), 2; Brown, ‘The Radical Travels of Mary Fisher’, p. 40; C. Hill, Antichrist in Seventeenth-Century England (London, Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 181–2.

(99) London’s Dreadful Visitation (London, 1665).

(100) Fox, ‘Epistle 264’, Epistles, p. 293.

(103) J. Besse, A Collection of the Sufferings of the People called Quakers (London, 1753), p. lii.

(105) E. Yale, ‘The History of Archives: The State of the Discipline’, Book History, 18 (2015), 341; for theorising the history of radical archives and archives maintained as acts of political dissidence in a more contemporary context, see L. Darms and K. Eichhorn (eds), ‘Radical Archives’, Archives Journal, 5 (2015), http://www.archivejournal.net/issue/5/archives-remixed/ (accessed 15 August 2016).