Social background

Compiling a collective prosopographical profile ofthe early modern Protestant clergy is almost an impossibility given the wide geographical and cultural variations between states and territories. This problem is further compounded by the conflicting conclusions that historians have drawn from the available evidence. Nevertheless, clerical recruitment did reflect the social and cultural characteristics ofthe society from which recruits came and it is possible to point to some general features. The Protestant clergies were predominately drawn from the middling or lower-middling ranks of society (sizeable farmers and the urban middle classes) with few noblemen or peasants amongst their number. As Nigel Aston points out, men decided to become clergymen for a variety of reasons, including personal religious commitment, hopes among younger sons for status and decent incomes, desire to continue a family tradition, and the prospects for social advancement. Over time, there was an increase in the proportion of clerics who were themselves sons of clergymen, which led to a process of self-recruitment amongst the Protestant clergies. In both the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, the sons of clergymen provided the largest contingent of pastors in W├╝rttemberg, supplying respectively 63 per cent and 44 per cent of the manpower. By the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, over a third of all Lutheran clergymen in German territories were

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