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Seeking the Seekers

Ryrie, Alec (2021) 'Seeking the Seekers.', Studies in church history., 57 . pp. 185-209.


The Seekers, a supposed sect which flourished in late 1640s England, have been generally neglected by historians, with the exception of Quaker historiography, in which the Seekers play a pivotal but supporting role. This article argues that the Seeker phenomenon is worth attending to in its own right. Perhaps deriving from spiritualist, radical and Dutch Collegiant roots, it also represents the logical outcome of English Baptists and other radicals trying and failing to find ecclesiological certainty, and being driven to the conclusion that no true church exists or (for some Seekers) can exist. The article concludes by examining how the Seeker life was lived, whether as austere, apophatic withdrawal; a veering into libertinism; or by forming provisional communities, communities which did, in some cases, serve as a gateway to Quakerism.

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Publisher statement:This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Ecclesiastical History Society
Date accepted:18 February 2021
Date deposited:22 February 2021
Date of first online publication:21 May 2021
Date first made open access:22 February 2021

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