This book studies the oaths and covenants taken during the late sixteenth to the late seventeenth century, a time of great religious and political upheaval, assessing their effect and importance. From the reign of Mary I to the Exclusion crisis, Protestant writers argued that England was a nation in covenant with God and urged that the country should renew its contract with the Lord through taking solemn oaths. In so doing, they radically modified understandings of monarchy, political allegiance and the royal succession. During the civil war, the tendering of oaths of allegiance, the Protestation of 1641 and the Vow and Covenant and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 (all described as embodiments of England's national covenant) also extended the boundaries of the political nation. The poor and illiterate, women as well as men, all subscribed to these tests of loyalty, which were presented as social contracts between the Parliament and the people. The Solemn League and Covenant in particular continued to provoke political controversy after 1649 and even into the 1690s many English Presbyterians still viewed themselves as bound by its terms; the author argues that these covenants had a significant, and until now unrecognised, influence on 'politics-out-of-doors' in the eighteenth century.
EDWARD VALLANCE is Lecturer in Early Modern British History, University of Liverpool.