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Early Modern Professions

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Let me begin by saying I really do like the way Renaissance Deluxe has created Professions to go within social classes and provide characters with many different options for role-playing.  I am not a rules lawyer, that is not the point.  Rather, I would like to elaborate on the various Professions from my historical readings for the common weal.

I will begin alphabetically with the Agitator.  Of course, the great religious controversy of the Reformation must by considered.  The Early Modern period was also rife with pamphlets that were a by-product of the printing press introduced by Gutenberg in 1450.  Protest was generally more prevalent than I think is credited and i was also inclined to think the lower classes were more or less docile subjects of the ruling elite, but in one book I am reading about urban protest in France during the 17th century "It took a variety of forms, ranging from isolated grumblings to clandestine threats, gatherings of angry citizens, harassment of targeted scapegoats, rock throwing, pillaging, seizures of public places, armed forays through the streets, expulsions of purported traitors, sometimes mutilations and murders."  Rather more intense, perhaps, than the student protests of the 60's!

So, I invite all and sundry to add their thoughts on the Professions listed in the Renaissance rule book, either from the perspective of history, actual experience role-playing the profession in a game context, perhaps by sharing non-player characters (there are many excellent in Clockwork and Chivalry, for example) one has designed, pure imagination and/or literature.

In this way, I hope we can collectively flesh out the professions that we can all make use of in a Renaissance campaign.      

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To me, Agitators in the ECW have a pretty specific role - they are almost shop stewards, particularly in the Levellers regiments, representing the concerns of a politicised soldiery to their military superiors. They were a double-edged sword, as far as the powers that be were concerned - because they tended to be more of a feature of the later more professional (and often more effective) units - but would not always follow orders as expected (or, at least, negotiations would be required to get them to commit to attacking those that they perceived as allies/non-hostile to their wider cause). In the end, they were a liability in the new Commonwealth, which was always going to support a different agenda to the original aims of the Leveller faction.


That said, I wrote them crossing over with Ranters and the like, so they might be active fomenting unrest or pushing their agendas outside their regiments (or as non-military acitivists) or in completely different settings. Outside the military, Agitators whip up the crowds, often creating the spark that transforms anger into action. I certainly agree that protest was far more commonplace than most histories emphasise - and in the ECW, with the cap off press censorship and the existing order being questioned, the mob was becoming a real force to be reckoned with.

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I wondered how the Agitator fit within the period of the ECW.  With so many factions, everyone involved in the ECW seems some kind of agitator!  Didn't realize it was so specific a role in the ECW.


For my part, I have have taken a rather broad view and done a little research in an Encyclopedia of Early Modern History for anything I could imagine stirring up controversy, attracting agitators, that might even provide a seed or two for an historically based adventure.  I plan to add more as I go along but I wanted to get this first chunk posted because it might spawn some ideas...I realize most folks are concerned pretty much with food, housing, clothes, but the Agitator is a bit different.


·  Absolutism - what are the limits of potestas (absolute power) and auctoritas (absolute authority) that should be allowed the crowned heads of Europe?

·  Agriculture - who owned the land, who farmed it, and who had rights to it?

·  Augsburg, Religious Peace of - should the subjects of a prince be forced to conform to his/her particular faith or emigrate (cuius regio, cius religio - whose the regime, his the religion) as provided by the Peace of Augsburg 1555?

·  Augsburg, Religious Peace of - should Calvinists, Anabaptists and other dissenters be excluded from the protections provided by the Peace of Augsburg (they were excluded)?

·  Augsburg, Religious Peace of - has the Peace protected the Reich from the religious wars of France and the Netherlands or is it storing up tensions like a powder keg?

·  Baconian philosophy - should the natural philosophy of Francis Bacon, first published in The Advancement of Learning 1605, which relies on observation, the compilation of natural history and inductive reasoning supersede Aristotle, Neo-Platonism, Empiricism, Alchemy and Atomism as the most modern approach to natural philosophy?

·  Balkans - is the preoccupation with religious matters by the crowned heads of Europe ignoring the advancement of the Ottoman Empire through the Balkans, now on the very doorstep of Europe?

·  Baltic - is the collection of a toll by the King of Denmark on all ships entering or exiting the Baltic that must pass under the guns of Helsingor castle the practice of "legalized piracy" as the Danes are accused by the Hanseatic League?

·  Banditry - should bandits be treated as criminals and social outcasts or are they still part of peasant society, representing heroes, avengers and fighters for justice to the oppressed peasant classes (e.g., Robin Hood)?

·  Banking - do letters of exchange, a staple of early modern commerce that allow a merchant to buy in one currency and pay in another actually usury because the profit is disguised in the difference of exchange rates?

·  Bankruptcy - does the seizure of property and the arrest of individuals who cannot pay their debts represent injustice?

·  Baroque - does this form of art and architecture represent self-aggrandizement by the wealthy?

·  Bavaria - are the Bavarian dukes in league with the Jesuits to promote the counter-reformation in Germany?

·  Does the Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, Jesuit author of the Controversies, a famed counter-reformation document refuting Protestant doctrine, represent a saint or a devil?

·  Was the King James version of the Bible in 1611 royally authorized, or does the enormously popular Geneva Bible first published in 1566 still represent the best English translation?

·  Does the succession of the Valois dynasty by the Bourbon dynasty of Henri IV, King of France, represent a coup d'etat by the Huguenots?  Was Henri III assassinated on the orders of Henri IV?

·  Are the bourgeoisie, who do not fit well the traditional tripartite division of society into those who fight, those who pray and those who work represent the corruption of God's natural order?

·  Did Johannes Kepler pervert the valuable data gathered by the late great imperial astronomer Tycho Brahe (d. 1601) to bolster the foundation of a Copernican heliocentric cosmology opposed to the teachings of the Church that the earth was at the center?

·  Does the English East India Company founded by Elizabeth in 1600 represent a threat to the interests of the Dutch East India Company?

·  Was Giordano Bruno a heretic and magician deserving of execution by the Church in Rome in 1600 or was he a visionary in understanding the metaphysical implications of Copernican cosmology in his statement that there was really no such direction as "up",

·  Is Henri IV, King of France, intervening in the mayoral elections of towns in strongly Catholic Burgundy?

·  Is their truth in the Cabala introduced by Isaac Luria in the 16th century that men serve the forces either of good or evil in successive incarnations until perfected in service and finally freed from the cycle of rebirth and eternal struggle? 

·  Is Jakob Boehme, the mystic, in secret league with the Cabalists as his writings might suggest or is it true, as Pico della Mirandola claimed, that "no science can better convince us of the divinity of Jesus Christ than magic and the Cabala".

·  Is the Julian calendar followed by most Protestant states better than the Gregorian calendar named for the Pope Gregory who introduced it in 1582?

·  Are pastors called by God, as Calvin contends?  How can a Calvinist resist a tyrannical ruler?  Does the Genevan Consistory of the Reformed Church exceed their prerogatives in providing oversight of doctrine and morals, excommunicating and even executing (eg Michael Servetus in 1538) the heterodox?

·  Is wealth a sign of God's favor, as many capitalists seem to believe?

·  Is the Carnival celebrated in the days preceding Lent a decadent holdover from pagan days or is it still needed to chase away the demonic followers of the Winter King of the Dead and to encourage the return of the sun, the fertility of beasts and field?

·  Is the new Cartesian philosophy not only a challenge to Aristotle but also a challenge, however veiled to Christianity?

·  Are the Spanish mystics, like Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, right to insist that the human soul must be purified before it can attain union with God or were they minions of Philip II who affirmed the Inquisition when it destroyed the body to save the soul?

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Wow - what an excellent list :)


In the narrow sense, this might be useful:


"By 1647 the first major phase of the English Civil War was over, and Parliament was well aware of the heavy cost - and threat to stability - of maintaining a large army in the field. Parliamentary leaders proposed to disband the army, without giving the soldiers back pay that they were owed, and without granting them indemnity for damage committed during the conflict.

The army protested bitterly against the proposals. To represent their views, the soldiers elected two agents from each regiment. These agents, also known as 'Agitators', effectively acted as a secondary commanding force, and sometimes wielded more power than the army's own officers. They tended to represent a more radical outlook than the army leadership, and there was strong support for the extreme social radicalism of the Levellers among the Agitators and the troops they represented.

The Agitators imprisoned Charles I at Newmarket, and took part in the so-called 'Putney debates' of October and November 1647, which was essentially a discussion with the less radical leadership over what next steps the reforms brought on by victory over the king should take. The influence wielded by the Agitators quickly waned, and by 1648 the army officers were back in charge of their troops."


In a less narrow sense, the Agitators might well take up issue with any of the causes you've listed - I guess it's a broad term for political activists/agent provocateurs. While the Ranters might urge the crowds to consider issues, the Agitator has an active agenda (of course, the Ranters aren't so simple either - as they also consist of the broad movement from which only Quakerism really flourished, as well as a whole raft of individuals with their own specific religious and political ideas, some of whom were influential in other social movements that briefly reared their heads). One thing about the Early Modern Period - with the lid blown off the old order, it's easy to think that there were simple alternatives, such as Calvinism vs Catholicism, but the reality was a massive raft of dissenting ideas, which makes hard and fast definitions really difficult to assert.

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In one game I played, rather than ran, my Adventurer was a rather annoying pamphleteer. I put together a newsheet ("The Righteous View", from memory), using some woodcut images and Gutenberg style fonts, which I offered around whenever the occasion arose (then my Adventurer hid under the pub table while the inevitable inter-faction fight broke out).

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I was going to move on to Alchemist, but I guess I will have rather more to say about Agitators.  They are really a pivot point, I think, of the Early Modern, stirring up the factions in the streets and factories of the growing cities, the peasants villages that have become more autonomous from their Lords to better facilitate the productivity of agriculture in meeting the requirements of a growing urban population, starting to question and even defend themselves against the well-armed and landed aristocracy with few democratic scruples. 


Some of the books I am looking and will probably add to this topic:


History of Peasant Revolts by Yves-Marie Berce: the Tardes Avises who if they got it that Henri IV had converted to Catholicism maybe didn't believe it.  The troubles in Quercy.  The Croquant.  Riots over the price of bread.  Riots in response to the poor behavior of soldiers - some were eaten.  Soldat Tartare? Riots against excisemen and their agents - some rich folk would hire agitators to stymy the tax collectors by arousing the sentiments shared by more humble taxpayers.   


Urban Protest in Seventeenth Century France by William Beik.  Everyday resistance.  The culture of retribution - don't get mad, get even.  The unenviable position of the magistrates.  Notable uprisings in Montpelier, Dijon, Bordeaux.  Uprisings in the time of Louis XIV.  Factional parties and popular followings - Beziers and Albi, Aix-en-Provence. Princely leaders and popular parties.  The Loricards of Angers.  The Ormee. 


The German Reformation and the Peasants' War by Michael G. Baylor.  Many assume that the Reformation was the principal cause of the Peasant's War in the 1520's, the largest popular uprising up until the time of the French Revolution, but perhaps both the Reformation and the Peasant's War in the 16th century surfaced deeper under-currents that spilled over into the 17th century.  This book offers many of the original documents from that period of conflict for review and perhaps with them a better understanding of the social transformations that make the Early Modern such an interesting period and game setting.


Obedient Germans?  A Rebuttal by Peter Bickle.  Der Untertan, The Subject, is almost an article of faith regarding the German culture.  Viewed politically, the German was and is they embodiment of the "subject" in the word's most poignant sense - Max Weber.  Certainly the defense at Nuremberg, in which it was claimed the Nazis were just following orders tends to support this view.  But is this the natural outcome of the German social order or its perversion?  An interesting discourse ensues...


So, I will linger a bit over the Agitator.  I have more possible controversies to list.  More to add.  But in the end, it is the agitator who provides his or her energy to the factions which I think are such a great component of the Renaissance rules.  I want to know these rabble-rousers, flesh them out as Peter's perfidious pamphlateer has done in taking refugeunder a table in the tavern where his character glibly incited a row, elaborate and integrate them into my campaign.  Conflict is where drama comes from!  I welcome any ideas on the Agitated and those who Agitate them in Early Modern Europe, whether gentrified disturbers of polite society in drawing rooms or mercenary thugs in the streets hired by the supporters of a political or religious faction to obstruct the parade or procession of a rival faction. 

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Early Modern Controversies - Part Two

Sunday, March 29, 2015

10:27 AM


Continuation of a non-exhaustive list for potential agitators (most of these controversies existed prior to the Thirty Years War, the time of my own campaign).  Please add as you see fit.


·         Should the Archbishop or the town council (Geffeln) rule over the affairs of the Free City of Koln?

·         Does the wandering Commedia dell'Arte corrupt the morals of the common people?

·         Does the shift in trade from the older Mediterranean to the newer Atlantic  routes and its effects on the fortunes of cities in the Mediterranean - Barcelona, Marseilles, Genoa, Venice - and the Atlantic cities of Seville, Amsterdam and London, along with the globalization of trade to include the spice ships of Asia and the silver ships from the New World, represent a change in the balance of power toward the West?

·         Does a lack of Investment of the profits from international trade in the infrastructure of the nation (e.g. waterways and roadways) represent a "squandered opportunity"?  Is the nobility more concerned with its own past times and pleasures than with the economic welfare of the common people?

·         Does a lack of efficient postal service stymy the flow of correspondence so crucial to the flow of ideas between the sages of many lands?  It takes six weeks, for example, for a letter to make its way from Paris to Venice.

·         Are the Catholic confraternities to be found in nearly every urban center growing too rich and powerful, smug with material piety; are they being used by the religious orders, such as the Jesuits with the Marian sodalities, to fund dubious activities, and are they, in fact, despite the support of the Church, promoting a cultic element with their dramatic rituals of flagellation, lavish public processions and periodic feasts rather than promoting the charitable virtues originally intended?

·         Are the Genoese banking interests ensconced in Galata, near Istanbul, actually entering into an unholy commercial alliance with the Ottoman Empire with its capital in Istanbul, are the bankers selling out Western Christianity to the Turks?

·         Should the people be ruled by a constitution of laws applicable to everyone, from the King to the poorest peasant, or is the natural order based on the absolute sovereignty, established by God, of the monarchy?

·         Is the changing definition of consumer, from that of one who eats his or her daily bread with gratitude to that of one who spends and spends though desire is never fully met, necessarily a corruption of the devil by which men and women lose their souls and is the merchant the high priest of this religion of consumer goods, a servant of a mercantile Satan?

·         Have the pure blood statutes of Toledo, designed to keep conversos (converted Jews) out of the ranks of the nobility, actually debilitated Spain economically by driving a hard-working minority to pursue pedigree and status rather than the prosperity of the nation?

·         Does the telescope of Galileo, by confirming the heliocentric model of the universe proposed by the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, represent a device of the devil to undermine the teachings of the Church?

·         Is the cosmology of Aristotle based on imprecise measurements?

·         Are the courtiers of the princely courts the uomo universale of Baldassare Castiglione or are they fawning favorites of the crowned heads, vying for attention from their masters, like dogs, and do they rather distract the ruler from matters of state?

·         Are criminals sinners who have strayed beyond the boundaries of society and religion, or do they constitute a deviant underworld determined to pull down society and probably in league with the Devil?

·         Does the state's reliance on capital punishment reflect its lack of an effective police force, relying instead upon terrorizing would be criminals?

·         Does the continuation of an antiquated feudal social order represent an impediment to commercial development?

·         Is the average life expectancy of 30 in the seventeenth century the result of unhealthy living conditions created by the wealthy to suppress the poor?  If the German saying, Der Mensch ist was er isst (A man is what he eats), be true, then a peasant with no food is nothing, another corpse by the side of the road.

·         Is Deism, the belief that man may know the truth through his own rational capacity, without reference to the supernatural, and that there are natural principles common to all religions more than non-conformity, is it heresy, and should people like Lord Edward Herbert be burned at the stake for espousing such beliefs?

·         Is the argument from design, which started in ancient times, but was changed by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century to assert that the teleology, or purposefulness, of the natural order evidence of God's existence or is the inclusion of final causes a departure from the scientific, as Roger Bacon contends?

·         Is the human will determined by efficient causes or is it free to act as it chooses?

·         Are the ambassadors sent to this capital or that diplomats or spies?  If quid pro quo (something for something) is the norm among the crowned heads of Europe, still there is the question of how much information should be given and how much should be received.

·         Has the replacement of cavalry with infantry on the battlefield by the advent of black powder weapons resulted in the rise of dueling among aristocrats more than ever sensitive about their status as "those who fight" in society?

·         Do nobles who engage in dueling, affairs of honor, place themselves "above the law" and should dueling be punished by the authorities to reduce civil disturbance and maintain the social order?

·          Does the Dutch Republic, particularly in Amsterdam, grant too much freedom to the Jews who have emigrated there from Spain?

·         Can the Twelve Years' truce brokered between Spain and the Dutch Republic by Henri IV in 1609 last for even 2 years given the two sides have been at war since 1566 - 43 years of fighting?

·         Should the government intervene more in the economy to avoid the recurring famines and crises or should laissez faire policies in support of capitalism be pursued?

·         Should education be compulsory and universal, as argued by Luther?

·         To what extent has the Jesuit involvement in education fueled the counter-reformation (eg the Jesuit education of Ferdinand II)?

·         To what extent should girls receive education, as well as boys?

·         To what extent is Empiricism, the belief that experience is the best teacher, coincide with the writings of Francis Bacon and represent a threat to religion, among whom only the mystics claim first-hand experience of God and their experience, they say, is largely ineffable?

·         Are the so-called mathematics of the Mechanical Engineers actually magical formulae proscribed by the Church?

·         Are the tools of the Military Engineer fashioned in the Devil's workshop?  Are the mathematics of gunnery magical formulae?

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