The declaration listed archery, dancing, "leaping, vaulting, or any other such harmless recreation" as permissible sports, together with "May-games, Whitsun-ales and Morris-dances, and the setting up of May-poles". Amongst the activities that were prohibited were bear- and bull-baiting, "interludes" and bowling. The declaration rebuked Puritans and other "precise persons", and was issued to counteract the growing Puritan calls for strict abstinence on the Christian Sabbath (Sabbatarianism).
The declaration was reissued by Charles I on 18 October, 1633, as The King's Majesty's declaration to his subjects concerning lawful sports to be used. It is thought that the new declaration was written by Charles' new Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud. Charles ordered that any minister who refused to read it would be deprived of position. As the Puritans gained power in Parliament in the lead-up to the English Civil War, hostility to the Book of Sports grew. Attempts to enforce the declaration came to an end with the fall of Laud in 1640, and Parliament ordered the book publicly burned in 1643, two years before Laud was executed.
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