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Roger Morrice and His Entring Book

Mark Goldie reveals some vivid insights into London life before and during the Glorious Revolution, from a little-known contemporary of Pepys.

'I had it from a person present’ who did ‘with his own hand feel the afterbirth, and it was perfectly warm’. It was June 1688, and Roger Morrice, like other Protestant Englishmen, was profoundly disturbed by news of the birth of a Catholic heir to the throne. Yet, within months, national deliverance came. On December 17th, Morrice watched Dutch troops marching through London. In Fleet Street women shook the soldiers’ hands, crying ‘God bless you, you come to redeem our religion, laws, liberties, and lives’. James II fled, and the Dutch stadholder, William of Orange, became king. On February 4th, Morrice strolled in Westminster Hall. Not since 1662, he wrote, had he walked there ‘without fear’, but today ‘I walked with true liberty’.

These poignant remarks occur in Morrice’s phenomenally well-informed Entring Book. Spanning the years 1677 to 1691, it is the most important unpublished British diary of the later seventeenth century. A million words long – as long as Pepys’ – it fills 1,500 folio pages. Yet it is scarcely known outside a handful of specialists. For most of the last three centuries it has lain neglected in Dr Williams’ Library in London, the principal archive of Protestant Nonconformity.

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