In “To Renew the Covenant”: Religious Themes in Eighteenth-Century Quaker Abolitionism, Jon R. Kershner argues that Quakers adhered to a providential view of history, which motivated their desire to take a corporate position against slavery. Antislavery Quakers believed God’s dealings with them, for good or ill, were contingent on their faithfulness. Their history of deliverance from persecution, the liberty of conscience they experienced in the British colonies, and the ethics of the Golden Rule formed a covenantal relationship with God that challenged notions of human bondage. Kershner traces the history of abolitionist theologies from George Fox and William Edmundson in the late seventeenth century to Paul Cuffe and Benjamin Banneker in the early nineteenth century. It covers the Germantown Protest, Benjamin Lay, John Woolman, Anthony Benezet, William Dillwyn, Warner Mifflin, and others who offered religious arguments against slavery. It also surveys recent developments in Quaker antislavery studies.
Over the past fifty years Calvin research has seen significant turns toward interest in Calvin’s biblical exegesis, the social setting in which he was embedded, and the Frenchman’s self-understanding vis-à-vis such lived realities. These developments have resulted in a more deeply historicized Calvin, highlighting the benefits of contextual approaches for illuminating his life, work, and influence. At the same time, such research has relativized ideas about the reformer’s significance and originality. The future for Calvin research in an academy focused increasingly on contexts far removed from Reformation Europe should follow a similar course, relating the questions and insights of Calvin studies to an expanding group of conversation partners across diverse fields. Such projects include interdisciplinary historical work on Calvin’s context, more nuanced examination of Calvin’s reception in different settings up to the present day, and historically informed theological work related to the practices of faith communities.
This article reviews the recent trajectories in the study of early modern British religious history, arguing that the modes of cultural history and the rejection of a teleological narrative have opened up new topics and rejuvenated perennial debates while putting older ones to rest. Consequently, a fuller understanding of the long reach and fundamental place of reform within British society has precipitated a “religious turn” within early modern British studies. The article ends with a look at two promising trends: the use of new types of primary sources and a wider geographical scope.