“In the Bowels of Our Lord”
This introductory chapter sketches the questions and goals of the overall project and the needed background information about Quakerism. It introduces the Tortola Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (“Quakers”) which formed in the British Virgin Islands about 1740 and addresses how archaeology can approach the study of religion and religious communities. This chapter also serves as an introduction to Quakerism itself, including its ideology based on individual, un-mediated communion with God, and a brief history of the group from its foundation in the political and economic turmoil of mid-seventeenth-century England, to the “Quietism” of wealthy “Quaker Grandees” in Philadelphia, to a nineteenth and twentieth century history of schism and reunion around pacifism. The Quaker structure of Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly meetings is introduced, and connected to both community oversight and support structures. Finally, this chapter introduces three main Quaker ideals—simplicity, equality, and peace—which will be interrogated throughout the work as they change in their interactions with Caribbean slavery and geography.
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