‘William Penn: A life’ by Andrew R Murphy

Review by Michael Wright

A close-up of the book cover. | Photo: 'William Penn: A life'.

William Penn’s reputation is that of a Quaker saint. His words are often quoted by Friends, as is the anecdote of George Fox telling Penn to wear his sword as long as he could. He is renowned for his ‘Holy Experiment’ seeking to establish in Pennsylvania a political environment which featured liberty, tolerance and acceptance of difference. It was in Philadelphia that Americans crafted their Declaration of Independence. Three hundred years after his death his image remains vibrant in US culture. His enormous statue looks over Philadelphia. He and his second wife Hannah are two of only eight individuals given honorary US citizenship. This biography draws heavily on Penn’s correspondence, especially that involving the establishment of Pennsylvania.

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