Mercenaries, Economy, and Society in the Late 16th c Baltic

May 17, 2015


Joseph Sproule is a History Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto, where his research focuses on the early modern Baltic. He is the recipient of a 2015 AABS Dissertation grant, which will support travel this summer to Tallinn and Stockholm. Joseph will conduct archival research at the Tallinn City Archives and the National Archives of Sweden, each of which holds rich collections of original documents of value to his project, such as correspondences, soldiers’ contracts, and military payment lists.
We asked Joseph to tell us about his project.

My dissertation explores the role of mercenaries in the late sixteenth-century eastern Baltic, particularly the hiring, pay, and regulation of these soldiers in Tallinn/Reval during the Livonian War of 1558-1583. The mercenary’s value lay in his capacity for violence, but harnessing and directing that violence was often a challenge for early modern authorities beset by powerful enemies and struggling to meet the crippling costs of prolonged conflicts. My archival research provides a window into the fractious relationships between the Livonian Order (until 1561), Swedish Crown (after 1561), municipal authorities, burghers, and soldiers that defined Revalian society during the tumultuous decades of the late sixteenth century.

I am very grateful for the generosity of the AABS, which will assist me in conducting the research needed to complete my dissertation. Thank you!