'For the better uniting of this nation': The 1649 Oath of Engagement and the people of Lancashire
Craven, A. (2010) 'For the better uniting of this nation': The 1649 Oath of Engagement and the people of Lancashire. Historical Research, 83 (219). pp. 83-101. ISSN 0950-3471
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On 2 January 1650, the Act for subscribing the Engagement was passed. By this, the English republic's oath of loyalty was extended to 'all men whatsoever within the Commonwealth of England, of the age of eighteen years and upwards'. Although the controversy surrounding the Engagement has been much studied, the administration of the oath has drawn little attention. This is not surprising given that very few returns survived the 1661 order for their destruction. Yet, among these scanty records, there survive two separate sets of returns for Lancashire: the first was collected between June 1650 and April 1651 at Blackburn, Bury, Heywood, Middleton, Preston and Wigan; the second was compiled at Manchester between February and December 1651, and has been previously unnoticed by historians. These two documents provide valuable evidence of the government apparatus by which the oath was administered, and of the kind of people who took it. The returns enhance our understanding of the motivation for taking the Engagement, and measure commitment to the new regime.