G is for… Geography

In this blog, I mostly write about British Quakers – which seems fair enough, since that’s what I am. However, I think it’s important to see things in context, and one of the contexts in which you can consider British Quakerism is its physical place in the world. What is the geography of Quakerism?

an ariel view of a green hill

Pendle Hill, Lancashire, UK

Some is the geography of origins – above is the Google maps image of Pendle Hill, where George Fox had a vision of “a great people to be gathered”. (His friend Richard Farnsworth opted to walk round instead.) Other British places with strong Quaker links include Swarthmore Hall, Jordans, and in more recent history, Bournville and Woodbrooke in Birmingham.

A world map with territory size adjusted to show the proportion of the world’s Quakers in that area.

The map above (from worldmapper) puts British Quakers into a different light, though – although we are the majority of European Quakers, European Quakers are only 7% of the world’s Quakers, with 52% of Quakers in Africa and 35% in the Americas. (2012’s figures can be obtained from the Friends World Committee for Consultation, who would like your email address in exchange.)

What this map doesn’t show – perhaps can’t show, because I cannot quickly find figures for this – is the different types of Quakerism to be found around the world. In Europe, most Quaker meetings are of the unprogrammed type, practising silent worship. In Africa, most Quaker meetings are of the programmed type – more like what you’d expect from a Protestant church service here, with singing and Bible readings. In North America, you can find both, often in overlapping geographical areas (for more on the complex American situation, read this introduction). Even in the UK, we have one or two programmed meetings – one meets monthly in London, for example.

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