Walpole’s Tax on Catholics

I’ve written an article on the £100000 tax on Catholics in the September issue of BBC History Magazine. This was the measure that prompted the imposition of the oaths to George I in 1723. The effectiveness of the tax has been debated by historians but in this short piece I argue that it did reveal the capacity of the state to keep watch on its Roman Catholic subjects (whether rich or poor, male or female). You can download a copy of the article from the link below. I’m grateful to BBC History Magazine for permission to reproduce my essay.

BBC History Magazine Article

Names, numbers and titles

I’ve been taking a look at the York city roll again with the aim of producing a breakdown of the proportion of married women, spinsters and widows who signed the list. Information on the occupation of married women’s husbands also offers some indication of the economic status of the women subscribing. Work of this kind has already been done by Simon Dixon in a paper on the Exeter rolls which he kindly shared with me. The detailed and already transcribed York list seemed to offer a good comparison.

As I’ve indicated in previous posts, a desire to protect property and/or the right to inherit/administer property could explain why widows and the wives of gentlemen appear on the lists. What did it mean, however, that the wife of Thomas Plaister, labourer, also signed the list 5th December 1723? (YCA F12, f 146v) Was her subscription the product of political pressure, spousal direction or personal conviction?

I’ll put up the statistical findings here in due course but looking at the roll again also prompted questions about identity. While most women on these lists are given some form of identity, whether as widow, spinster or wife, women do appear on roll without any additional description, such as Elizabeth Jeele who subscribed the York list on 24 September 1723 (YCA F12, f. 141v). Was the lack of a description of Elizabeth an indication of poverty or marginality in some way? If the former, how did she pay the subscription fee of 3d?

More intriguing still are two women (or, I should I say possible women) who appear on the list with seemingly male titles. On 19 December, one Cornelia _ayley[?] Esqr subscribed the York roll, while on 21 Dec an Eliz. Aldridge was listed as ‘Baker’. In the case of Aldridge, while Brian Jones’ transcription identified the forename as ‘Eliz’, my own transcription had the abbreviation as ‘Clir’, which might suggest a male forename instead (Clifford)? Both Jones and I transcribed ‘ayley’ as Cornelia, however, and reviewing the image again, this still looks the most plausible reading of that name. Have we or the scribe made a mistake, or was a women really being described
as an Esqr on one of these lists?

In other news, I will be speaking about the 1723 oaths on 12 March in Liverpool not 11 as indicated in an earlier post. I’ll try and record this talk as the podcast technology didn’t work for the IHR paper.

It also appears as if there may be a 1723 oath roll for New York held in the archives of the New York Historical Society.

Article on 1723 oath rolls in London Metropolitan Archives

I have written a short article on the 1723 oath returns to be found in London Metropolitan Archives which has now been posted on the LMA website.

The article will also appear in the LMA’s newsletter.

I will also be delivering a talk on 1723 oaths at the University of Liverpool’s Eighteenth-Century Worlds seminar on 11 March 2015.

Further rolls and some upcoming talks

I’ve identified another oath roll in TNA Exchequer papers: E 169/84. This is a list of Quaker asservations with around 35 names on it, including both men and women. The subscriptions were taken between 30th Oct and 28th Nov 1723.

I will be giving a paper on my research on the 1723 oaths in London on 15 October and in York on 28 October. The London talk will be recorded as part of the IHR’s podcast series. I have also produced a short article on the 1723 oaths for the London Metropolitan Archives autumn newsletter, out Oct/Nov.

A new, updated version of the finding list will be published shortly.

Article in Genealogists’ Magazine

The latest edition of the Genealogists’ Magazine (June 2014) includes an article by Sylvia Dibbs on the 1723 oaths of loyalty. It’s great that the oaths are being brought to the attention of family historians and I am pleased that the author has directed readers to the electronic finding list. The article also includes some interesting data drawn from the City of London returns. However, the link the author provides is for the History Working Papers draft version of the finding list. This is an older version of the list that was uploaded to enable those with information on the oath rolls to post comments. The most recent version of the finding list can be found and downloaded from this site (click on the ‘Finding List’ tab). This edition includes further information on the City and Exchequer rolls plus details of additional returns that have been identified for Kent and Westmoreland.

I am grateful to Jeremy Gibson for bringing Sylvia Dibbs’ article to my attention.