Cover image for Dublin's merchant-Quaker : Anthony Sharp and the Community of Friends, 1643-1707
Dublin's merchant-Quaker : Anthony Sharp and the Community of Friends, 1643-1707
Greaves, Richard L.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
x, 337 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DA995.D75 G74 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A towering figure in the history of Irish Quakerism, and friend of William Penn and William Edmundson, Anthony Sharp left England in 1669 to settle in Dublin and carve a place for himself in the woolen trade. As a businessman he succeeded brilliantly, employing some 500 workers and amassing a fortune that included lands in Ireland, England, and New Jersey. His economic success helped him gain entree to prominent political and ecclesiastical officials, from whom he sought relief for persecuted Quakers.Without peer among Irish Friends as an organizer, Sharp played a key role in assisting fellow Quakers to survive repression and to evolve from a small sect into a denomination. With his second wife, Ann, he helped shape the rigorous style of dress and home furnishings that set the Irish Friends apart from their coreligionists in England. Tireless in his work as a secretary, treasurer, and fund-raiser, he served on the committee that monitored the proceedings of the Irish Parliament and helped pioneer the Friends' home and shop visitations. Sharp took up his pen to defend Quakers in "the Lamb's war" against critics on all sides--Catholics, Anglicans, nonconformists, and sectarian extremists.When James II extended toleration to nonconformists, Sharp seized the opportunity to become a Dublin alderman and sit on committees whose purview ranged from cleaning the city streets to overseeing the workhouse for the indigent. He attained prominence in the weavers' guild, serving as master in 1688-89 and sitting on its council for years. Notwithstanding his distinctive dress, his refusal to take oaths or pay tithes, and his plain speech, he enjoyed the respect of the rich and powerful. Dublin's Merchant-Quaker is not only a biography of Sharp but a portrait of Dublin's community of Friends. The author explains in detail the functioning of national, provincial, and local meetings; the Friends' work in educating and disciplining their members; their provision of charity to the needy; and their efforts to ransom captives in Muslim lands. In undertaking these activities, Sharp and his fellow Quakers expressed the driving force of their faith and built a society that sustained the Friends for centuries to come as a minority within another minority, the Protestants of Ireland.

Author Notes

Richard L. Greaves is the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of History at Florida State University. He is the author, most recently, of God's Other Children: Protestant Nonconformists and the Emergence of Denominational Churches in Ireland, 1660-1700 (Stanford, 1997).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Greaves, author of several well-documented books on 17th-century dissenters, argues that Anthony Sharp (1643-1707) represents the transformation of Irish Friends from a charismatic sect into a respectable Protestant denomination. Sharp, whose father gave him several hundred pounds to begin business, ended by owning a woolen manufactory with 500 workers, at least 29 houses, and several thousand acres of land. Converted c. 1663, he became a minister, clerk and treasurer of various meetings, a controversialist who defended Friends against religious and political opponents, and a strict enforcer of the discipline. The meeting used Sharp's legal training and business skills in a wide variety of activities: arbitrating between members, defending those persecuted for tithes, planning buildings, documenting persecutions, and raising money for schools. He emerges as devoted to the welfare of the Quaker community, but with no sympathy for Irish Catholics. Like George Whitehead, the leader of English Quakers after Fox's death, Sharp showed little intellectual originality in his writings or activities for the meeting. Greaves's account provides valuable new information about this significant sect whose Irish members numbered less than 5,000. For collections specializing in history of religion and Ireland. Upper-division undergraduates and above. J. W. Frost; Swarthmore College