COOL CLASSES: “Quakers, War, and Slavery 1646-1723”

This seminar encourages students to analyze primary sources and secondary works to explore how and why early Friends came to see both war and slavery as immoral.

Class name: Quakers, War, and Slavery 1646-1723”
Taught by: Douglas and Dorothy Steere Professor of Quaker Studies David Harrington Watt


Here’s what Watt has to say about his course:

In the 1640s and 50s, many Quakers believed that Christians should fight in wars; none of them (as far as we know) believed that Christians ought not to own slaves. By 1723, most Friends had renounced war; a good many of them had begun to assert that owning slaves was contrary to the will of God. In this course, we’re trying to determine how—and also why—Quakers changed their minds about war and slavery.

Students in the course have a chance to analyze how it was that an institution—chattel slavery—that seemed “natural” and “right” to early Friends came to be seen as unnatural and immoral. They also have an opportunity to use material in Haverford’s amazing Quaker and Special Collections to explore the many ways in which the Quakerism that is practiced today differs from the Quakerism that was practiced by early Friends such as Margaret Fell, James Nayler, George Fox, and William Penn.



See what other courses the interdisciplinary Concentration in Peace, Justice, and Human Rights is offering this semester.

Photo of documents of Germantown Quaker protests against slavery from Haverford College Quaker and Special Collections by Patrick Montero.

Cool Classes is a recurring series on the Haverblog that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford College experience.