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Historical Context
The 1723 Loyalty Oaths
About the Documents
Research Areas
Editorial Conventions

Transcripts of Documents
Surnames Index
Parishes index

Pre-1723 Oath Rolls Indexes
Pre-1723 Documents
Pre-1723 Surnames
Pre-1723 Parishes


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By Simon Dixon

Hidden away amongst the mass of documents created by the Devon Quarter Sessions and now held by the Devon Record Office in Exeter is a little known and seldom consulted series of manuscripts compiled in the aftermath of the Jacobite Atterbury plot of 1720-22. These 1723 oath rolls contain the names of over 25,000 Devonians, amounting to some one in five of the adult population of the time. They provide the key to unlocking the history of local communities during the early eighteenth century, as the men and women of the county paraded before the Justices of the Peace in order to swear their loyalty to King George I. In their original form they are virtually unusable, with the names of individuals listed in no systematic order. Inhabitants of a single parish can appear on numerous separate oath rolls, with many people swearing at towns and villages some miles from their place of residence. The documents are large, cumbersome, and occasionally difficult to read due to centuries of wear and numerous corrections and crossings out. It is for these reasons that they have been selected as the first in a series of documents to be transcribed and published online as part of the Eighteenth Century Devon: People and Communities project. They will be of use to local researchers, family historians and scholars engaged in the study of eighteenth century Devon society. As the following overview demonstrates they provide insights into levels of literacy, travel and transportation networks, population distribution and the nature of public political engagement.

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