John Woolman’s Path to the Peaceable Kingdom, by Geoffrey Plank
This is a lovely book, a wonderful example of careful yet accessible history.
John Woolman, a Quaker of 18th-century New Jersey, is well known as an early abolitionist and an advocate of material simplicity. His journal, a spiritual autobiography, is an American and Christian classic, and people tend to remember Woolman as a heroic individual, as both a reformer and a saint.
Geoffrey Plank takes a broader view. His book situates Woolman in his many contexts and communities—with other early abolitionists; in transatlantic economic discussions; with farmers and shopkeepers, slaves and sailors. A professor of American studies at the University of East Anglia, Plank also reminds us of the wide range of Woolman’s interests—from Native Americans to seafaring, from agriculture to eschatology.
This article is available to subscribers only. Please subscribe for full access—subscriptions begin at $2.95. Already have an online account? Log in now. Already a print subscriber? Create an online account for no additional cost.