This introduction analyzes the Friends' conceptualization of their “holy nation” of Zion, noting both the traditional and innovative theology employed by the Friends and analyzing the “worldly” implications of religious transnationalism during the Age of Revolution (1750–1820). It then demonstrates how this framework changes our historical and historiographical understandings of the early modern Atlantic World, engaging the literature regarding the role of religion in state-building as well as in nationalist and patriotic discourse. In so doing, it also opens up new avenues of inquiry in religious historiography, arguing for the importance of non-conformist sects on the burgeoning 'religious marketplace.' In order to make this case, it then concludes by tracing the history of the Quaker itinerant ministry from its origin in the seventeenth century through its dramatic change in the eighteenth century and its gradual decline in the nineteenth.
Keywords: holy nation, imagined community, transnationalism, nationalism, religion, public friends