This thesis explores the social, economic and religious background of the independent religious community which developed across Westmorland, the Yorkshire Dales and north Lancashire in the years before 1652. This was the year when George Fox was introduced to the community at a historic meeting at Firbank Fell, near Sedbergh, in Westmorland. While this meeting is recognised as perhaps the most transformative event in the early history of the Quaker movement, the importance of the community and the individuals Fox met has been overlooked. The historical focus has always been on the activity of George Fox not on the people he met. But this was an established radical group, whose character had been strengthened by years of hardship, isolation and persecution, which had come together to form a simple church to worship God in the way they wished. There was no conversion at the feet of George Fox, this was instead a mutually beneficial meeting of like-minded people. The thesis explains how strength of character and an independent frame of mind developed and how radical puritanism and education shaped the lives of the people. It identifies how a closed isolated society opened in the 1640s during the civil wars to radical religious and political ideas, fermented within the ranks of the armies of Parliament. It was through an informal network of like-minded religious radicals, formed during military service, that George Fox became aware of the community in Westmorland and the Yorkshire Dales. This thesis outlines the importance of the network, its radical nature and the involvement of soldiers in the Parliamentarian army. It explains how Fox was introduced to the members of the network during his travels around Yorkshire and the significance of his meeting with the âolde preistâ, William Boyes, who provides a direct link to religious radicalism across the area over a period of forty years. George Foxâs decision to travel to Westmorland was formed by these events, his journey was planned, it was not accidental.