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William Penn: A Life Reviews

William Penn: A Life by Andrew R. Murphy

William Penn: A Life

Andrew R. Murphy

4.00 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Oxford University Press Inc
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Publication date: 15 Nov 2018
ISBN: 9780190234249

Andrew R. Murphy offers the first major biography of Penn in more than forty years, and the first to make full use of Penn's private papers. The result is a complex portrait of a man whose legacy we are still grappling with today. At a time when religious freedom is hotly debated in the United States and around the world, William Penn's Holy Experiment serves as both a beacon and a challenge.

4 stars out of 5
1 Feb 2019

"extensively researched in the two continents and is at home in both"

Andrew Murphy’s scholarly and pleasurable biography is extensively researched in the two continents and is at home in both. In Pennsylvania it is the tensions between the high aims and the constraining realities of the colonial enterprise, and the consequent conflicts between the Quaker core and the remaining population, that animate his account. Penn brought great energy and drive to the undertaking, but the formidable problems of political organisation and land distribution were compounded by his prolonged absences, which he was always meaning to end. 


4 stars out of 5
13 Jan 2019

"a challenging and instructive story"

It all adds up to a challenging and instructive story and we have been waiting a long time for a rounded portrait of Penn. Murphy has provided one and it is an outstanding achievement. The usual caricatures of Penn are banished and we are offered as much biographical detail as anyone could desire. The reader will learn all about the well-heeled youth with a naval hero for a father who got into trouble at Oxford for his flirtations with unorthodox religious beliefs.

4 stars out of 5
11 Jan 2019

"...an invaluable resource for anyone with a serious interest in the history of Quakerism"

It’s probably fair to say the book is not really aimed at the general reader. It doesn’t attempt to convey the nature of Quaker worship but concentrates on the Friends’ disputes between themselves and with society at large.... Murphy gives us a meticulously researched account of the nuances of Penn’s dealings with the varied issues and groups he confronted during his extraordinary life, providing an invaluable resource for anyone with a serious interest in the history of Quakerism, the development of governmental theory, or the vexed politics of Penn’s ‘holy experiment’.