"Ye shall disturbe no mans right": oath-taking and oath-breaking in early modern Bristol
Oaths -- England -- History Bristol (England) -- History Social control -- England -- History Όρκοι -- Αγγλία -- Ιστορία Κοινωνικός έλεγχος -- Αγγλία -- Ιστορία
This paper examines the cultural, social and political importance of oaths in the city of Bristol. Oaths played a significant role in the everyday life of early modern men and women. Oaths were usually taken on solemn, often elaborate and customarily formal occasions, and for this reason they were often carefully recorded by officials. Textual analysis of oaths reveals the high degree of care taken by urban bodies at all levels of government - parish, guild and civic - to ensure that the oath remained a useful tool with which to bind its pledger closer to these respective institutions. This added to distinctions between those under oath and those not and thus further enhanced social and political divisions within the town. Court cases involving accusations of breach of oath likewise reveal how oaths could be used as political and social tools by those wielding power to help control unruly or deviant behaviour.
Paper presented at Seventh International Conference on Urban History: European City in Comparative Perspective, Panteion University, Athens - Piraeus, Greece, 27-30 October 2004, Session: Urban stability and civic liberties: two fundamental concepts and the practice of crime control in early modern european cities (1400-1800)