The 1723 Oaths of Allegiance to George I: An Electronic Finding List

Some news on a new research project of mine. The Marc Fitch Fund have generously awarded me some funding to help develop an electronic, publicly accessible finding list for the returns of the 1723 Oaths of Allegiance to George I.

These oaths were tendered in the wake of the Jacobite Atterbury Plot of 1722. Taken at Midsummer and Michaelmas quarter sessions, oath rolls survive for Devon, East Sussex (Petworth) Essex, Hampshire, London, Norfolk, Worcestershire and the city of York. Returns for Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire have already been published and transcribed.

There was nothing particularly new about the oaths themselves which were based on earlier tests devised under Queen Anne and William and Mary. However, as has been demonstrated by Simon Dixon and the Friends of Devon Archives in their excellent project on the Devon roll, the 1723 returns do have a number of interesting features which set them apart from previous national oaths of loyalty. First, large numbers of women subscribed these oaths (3 in 10 subscribers in Devon were female). Second, some returns, such as those for the cities of Exeter and York, contain considerable detail about the social, marital and economic status (occupation) of subscribers.

The oaths are obviously of value to social, economic and political historians of early modern England and I’ve written elsewhere about their potential value to family historians. However, unlike similar documents such as the 1641 Protestation or the 1696 Association oath rolls there is no equivalent published catalogue of these documents.

The aim of this project is to identify all the surviving English returns for this oath. I know that some family and local history societies have already become interested in the potential of these returns. I’m hoping to use that knowledge and interest to help develop the finding list. The first stage of this project will be to develop a dedicated website for the 1723 oaths which will link to a ‘work-in-progress’ version of the finding list that visitors will be able to comment upon if they have further information. Any useful information given about the oath returns will obviously be acknowledged in the final version of the electronic finding list.

So, watch this space and, in the meantime, do get in touch if you have further info on the 1723 oaths.

Published in: on November 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Early Modern Ancestors Day – Roehampton University 28 June 2011

Are you interesting in understanding early modern records to research your family history?

This one-day workshop will provide information and training on how to use the hearth tax, loyalty oaths and other early modern records.


Prof. David Hey (University of Sheffield), Surnames and the Hearth Tax Returns

Dr Edward Vallance (Roehampton University London), ‘Sources to Swear by’: Researching your 17th & 18th Century Ancestors

Peter Seaman (formerly of The National Archives), The Hearth Tax: a Census for the 17th Century?

Dr John Price (Centre for Hearth Tax Research), Sourcing the Sources: Locating and Accessing Hearth Tax Records


  • Practical Palaeography: Approaching 17th Century handwriting
  • Advanced Palaeography: Reading and interpreting texts
  • IT and Internet Resources: Finding and accessing resources
  • IT and Databases: Understanding and analysing data

These workshops, with an onus on practical advice and assistance with specific tasks or queries, will be led by a team of experts, including:

Dr Simon Dixon (Research Fellow, Queen Mary, University of London)

Dr Elizabeth Parkinson (Senior Research Fellow, RU)

Dr Edward Vallance (Reader in Early Modern History, RU)


Ticket prices include: all presentations and workshops; lunch and all refreshments; and entry to the keynote lecture and drinks reception.

  • Advanced booking: £70.00 (book before 1st April 2011)
  • Standard booking: £85.00 (after 1st April 2011)
  • Late booking: £99.00 (after 1 June 2011)

You can book online here

Revolutionary England and the National Covenant: State Oaths, Protestantism and the Political Nation

My research monograph is now available via Google books.

More hot oath news – MPs plan to ditch oath of allegiance to Queen

As reported with predictable hurrumphing in both the Telegraph and the Mail (complete with traditional, unfunny Mail cartoon.)

Of course, Lord Tebbit is quite right. The oath taken by MPs worked very well for most of its existence, excluding Catholics, nonconformists, atheists and other undesirables from taking up their seats in the Commons.

Also, ‘John Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister, was said to have deliberately mumbled the words.’ Deliberately?

Oh, and over here, Michael White offers the usual shabby argument that it’s ‘better the devil you know’ as far as the monarchy is concerned. After all, if you went for a republic, you might just get some crappy elected politician instead. Like Nelson Mandela. The example of the German Presidency is also worthless in a British context given the very obvious historical reasons why the Germans now prefer a low-key essentially ceremonial national figurehead to a powerful head of state.

Published in: on August 8, 2008 at 10:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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Old papers pt4 – My thesis State Oaths and Political Casuistry in England 1640-1702

Here are the pdfs of my thesis. If you want to cite the ref is E. Vallance, State Oaths and Political Casuistry in England: 1640-1702, (unpublished University of Oxford D.Phil, 2000), this URL then access date.

Note that this is taken from an uncorrected copy in a cheap binding that I was able to pull apart and scan. The pagination is the same as the copy in the Bod and in the BL but there are one or two minor corrections which are missing in this version.






Old papers pt. 3. Robert Sanderson’s Case of the Engagement

Here’s another piece of M.St work, my bibliographic essay on Robert Sanderson’s case of the Engagement – not strictly part of the thesis, so if you want to cite, E. Vallance ‘Robert Sanderson’s “The Case of the Engagement”‘, (unpublished University of Oxford M.St. work, 1997), this url, access date etc.

I used a lot of this work as the foundation for my 2001 HJ article on Anglican Responses to the Engagement Controversy.


Please note that the pagination has got out of wack, but I am too lazy to sort it out!

Lord Goldsmith and the Return of De Facto Theory

Aside from indulging in typical NL wonk-speak (‘we have a rich suite of national symbols in this country’ ‘enhancing our national narrative’ ‘community stakeholders’), Goldsmith’s full report backs up the Hobbesian arguments he made on the Today programme

Citizenship, Goldsmith tells us, ‘is the statement of a reciprocal relationship under which the individual offers loyalty in exchange for protection.’

 Again, William Godwin had some sensible things to say about this:

‘ “We live’, it will be said, “under the protection of this constitution; and protection, being a benefit conferred, obliges us to a reciprocation of support in return’

            To this it may be answered, first, that this protection is a very equivocal thing, and, till it can be shown that the vices, from the effects of which it protects us, are not for the most part the produce of that constitution, we shall never sufficiently understand the quality of benefit it includes.

            Secondly, gratitude, as has already been proved, is a vice and not a virtue. Every man and every collection of me ought to be treated by us in a manner founded upon their intrinsic qualities and capacities, and not according to a rule whcih has existence only in relation to ourselves.’

Loyalty oaths – for kids

In the Sunday Times. As some on the comment strand have indicated, another good argument for home schooling.

As someone who has worked on the history of oath-taking for most of their academic life, I am perpetually amazed that we keep returning to these devices, particularly when the shortcomings of oaths of loyalty are so obvious. As William Godwin argued in Political Justice

‘Certainly there cannot be a method devised at once more ineffectual and iniquitous than a federal oath. What is the language that in strictness of interpretation belongs to the act of the legislature imposing this oath? To one party it says, ‘We know very well that you are our friends; the oath as it relates to you we acknowledge to be altogether superfluous; nevertheless you must take it, as a cover to our indirect purposes in imposing it upon persons whose views are less unequivocal than yours.’ To the other party it says, ‘It is vehemently suspected that you are inimical to the cause in which we are engaged:  this suspicion is either true or false; if false, we ought not to suspect you, and much less ought we to put you to this invidious and nugatory purgation; if true, you will either candidly confess your difference, or dishonestly prevaricate: be candid, and we will indignantly banish you; be dishonest and we will receive you as bosom friends.’

Okay, go to WHSmith … now

I was getting a bit ahead of myself with my earlier post. My bit for BBC WDYTYA Mag is now out. Don’t all rush at once, the print run is limited.

BBC Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine article on oaths of allegiance

My article on the 1723 oaths of allegiance and their possible usefulness for genealogists has just appeared in BBC Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. I’m doubly pleased because it’s the David Tennant issue!

On a more serious note, it seems that the acknowledgement to the British Academy for supporting this research has got lost in the editing process. So I am gratefully acknowledging their financial assistance here.

Published in: on January 10, 2008 at 7:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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