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Oliver Cromwell (1599—1658) lord protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland

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King's Book of Sports

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Declarations by James I, and Charles I, kings of England, relating to the permissibility of sports on Sundays. James I issued a royal proclamation in 1618, reissued by Charles I in 1633, authorizing the practice of some sports on Sundays, after evening church service. The declaration, issued in response to the pleas of Catholics in Lancashire whose activities were being curtailed by zealous Puritan reformers during the Protestant ascendancy, stated that ‘our good people's lawfull Recreation’ should not be discouraged or undermined. Dancing (for both men and women), leaping and vaulting (‘or any other such harmlesse Recreation’), May Days, Whitsun ales, morris dances, and maypole were encouraged, as long as people had attended church service. Prohibited were ‘unlawfull games’: bear- and bull-baiting, and, ‘in the meaner sort of people, Bowling’. At stake here was more than people's sporting preferences: the intervention represented by the declaration demonstrated the significance of sport in the wider context of social control and in relation to the dynamics of church and state of the time, just decades before the success of the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell and the establishment of the Commonwealth.

Subjects: Social sciencesSociology

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