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This article explores the last instance of mass public oath-taking in England, the tendering of the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration in the aftermath of the Jacobite Atterbury Plot of 1722. The records of this exercise, surviving in local record offices, have been little examined by historians. The returns are, however, unusual not only in the level of detail they occasionally provide concerning subscribers (place of abode, occupation, and social status) but also in the consistently high numbers of women who can be found taking the oaths. Prior to 1723, the appearance of female subscribers on oath returns was exceptional and usually assumed to be accidental. As this article seeks to demonstrate, the targeting of women in 1723 was intentional and represented a recognition of women's economic and political influence in early Hanoverian England. Even so, the presence of women on these oath returns represented a breach in the normal exclusion of women from formal political participation. The article suggests that other means of presenting public loyalty, namely the loyal address, were subsequently preferred which both seemed more the product of popular enthusiasm rather than state direction and which could informally represent women without conferring a public political identity.

Corresponding author
Department of Humanities, University of Roehampton, Roehampton, sw15 5ph
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I would like to thank Simon Dixon, Mark Knights, John Spurr, seminar audiences in London, Liverpool, and York and the editor and reviewers for the Historical Journal for their comments on this article. I am grateful to both the British Academy and the Marc Fitch Fund for financial support for my research.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Sharon Achinstein , ‘Women on top in the pamphlet literature of the English Revolution’, Women's Studies, 24 (1994), pp. 131–63

Elaine Chalus , ‘“Women are often very good scaffoldings”: women and politics in the age of Anne’, Parliamentary History, 28 (2009), pp. 150–65

Alexandra Shepard : ‘Crediting women in the early modern English economy’, History Workshop Journal, 79 (2015), pp. 124

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The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
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