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 Medieval City Occupations

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Medieval City Occupations Empty
PostSubject: Medieval City Occupations   Medieval City Occupations I_icon_minitimeWed Jul 28, 2010 8:44 pm

Thought ya'll might find this useful. Enjoy!

Governmental Occupations
These are the people who run things. They keep society moving smoothly, if they're good at what they do, and can bring society to a crunching halt, if they're not. Rife for corruption, government officials can play a significant role in many campaigns.

bailiff - the man who makes arrests and executions. Bailiff was not primarily used for the office of policeman. Etymologically, bailiffs were those in charge of the bailey - in effect, manager of the craftsmen and servants in a castle or manor house.
catchpole - literally 'chicken catcher', one who finds and brings in debtors.
chancellor - a secretary to a noble or royal
constable - the warden of a town or castle
diplomat - the person who negotiates with foreign nations
emperor - the ruler of an empire
exchequer - the man responsible for the king's revenue
hayward - an officer in charge of fences and hedges
herald - had two responsibilities: a man in charge of making pronouncements and proclamations, and one who is an expert in the field of heraldry (the various insignias used by the rich to identify themselves.) These two responsibilities were one in the same. Medieval Europeans wouldn't have thought it possible to separate them; much less would they have considered them separate roles.
jailer - the man responsible for a jail: he keeps the criminals from getting out
judge - a man who is responsible for deciding questions brought to court
king - ruler of a kingdom
liner - an officer in charge of tracing property boundaries in the city
master of the revels - official in charge of court entertainment, and later of the theaters [note: the first Master of the Revels was not appointed until Henry VII in the 15th century]
pursuivant - officer of arms, ranks below herald, similar duties
reeve - church warden. Note that the word 'reeve' applies to much more than the Church. Reeves usually came out to be combination administrators and business managers of estates, towns and small territories (i.e. shires) - something like a chief bailiff.
summoner - officer of the court who serves subpoenas (see also religious version)
woodward - the keeper of a forest

Military Occupations
Who keeps the country safe from encroaching enemies and wild monsters? Why, the military, of course. These brave men - and sometimes women train against the possibility that they'll have to protect their country with their lives.

Arbalestier - one who fires an arbalest (a type of metal crossbow)
archer - one who shoots arrows
camp follower - people following an army, making money off of the soldiers
Knifeman - one skilled with a knife; specifically, a soldier trained to disembowel horses
pioneer - an early term for military engineer
sapper - specialist in field fortifications
siege engineer

Criminal Occupations
Wherever there is society, there are criminals. These occupations include only the so-called "professional criminal": it ignores those people who are corrupt at every level of society who has a legal "front", from kings to beggars.

boothaler - marauder, plunderer
burglar - one who breaks into, and steals things from, other people's houses. (If you break into and steal stuff from your own house, you're just a nut.)
diver - fig. a pickpocket
fence - one who trades in stolen goods
footpad - one who robs pedestrians
outlaw - a man wanted by the law
pickpocket - one who picks pockets
poacher - one who illegally kills animals, usually on somebody else's land
silk-snatcher - one who steals bonnets
stewsman - probably a brothel keeper - "since the words stew and stewholder both mean a bawd, I'm guessing that a stewsman would be a brothel-keeper as well. Whether bawdry counts as a criminal activity varies at different times and places."
thimblerigger - a professional sharper who runs a thimblerig (a game in which a pea is ostensibly hidden under a thimble and players guess which thimble it is under)

Religious Occupations
If Government officials run the affairs of earthly beings, then those occupied with religious pursuits mediate between earth and the gods.

Priests are relatively common in role playing games. These men and women are the people behind the church: not typically "adventuring priests", but vitally important to the church nonetheless.

abbess - superior of a convent
abbot - superior of a monastery
almoner - a distributer of money and food to the poor
beadle - church official -- ushers preserves order at sermons
beguine - member of certain Netherland lay sisterhoods
canon - a prebend attached to a cathedral (the definition is somewhat wider, but that's the most common usage)
cantor - a choir leader in churches, the man who sings hymns and leads the congregation in prayer in a synagogue
chantry priest - a priest employed to say prayers for the dead; often taught on the side (thus so-called chantry schools)
clark - see clerk
clerk - a priest
curate - priest in charge of a church
friar - a wandering monk, especially a Franciscan
metropolitan - a bishop in charge of other bishops; an archbishop
ostiary - a church's doorkeeper
palmer - a pilgrim who's been to the Holy Land
pardoner - seller of indulgences
parish priest
pilgrim -
primate - head of the Church in a country or region (i.e. the Archbishop of Canterbury was Primate of England)
sacristan - a person in charge of the relics and religious items of a church
sexton - minor church officer - rings bells, digs graves
summoner - officer who brings people to episcopal courts (see also government version)

In a society based on trade - either with hard currency or barter, there are always those who spend their lives in the pursuit of selling things to others.

Note that most craftsmen also sell the results of their labor, farmers typically must sell their crops themselves, people in service trades often must hawk their own wares. This section does not include them. It includes only those people who spend their entire lives devoted to selling things, and nothing more.

acater - a provisioner (food)
alewife - a female alehouse keeper
apothecary - a preparer and merchant for drugs and medicines
beer seller
boothman - one who sells grains
chapman - travelling merchant
collier - one who makes or sells charcoal (later coal) [can also fit under craftsmen]
colporteur - seller of religious books
costermonger - fruit seller
drover - one who drives sheep or cattle to market
eggler - an egg-merchant
fruiterer - a seller of fresh fruit
fruitier - fruitseller
fueller - one who sells charcoal, wood, or other fuels
glass seller
greengrocer - seller of vegetables and fruits
harberdasher - seller of men's clothing
hay merchant
hetheleder - one who sells heather as fuel
ironmonger - one who sells things made of iron
lighterman - one who ferries goods from ship to shore on a small boat
linen-draper - one who deals in linens, calicos, etc.
mercer - a dealer in expensive clothing (silk, etc.)
milkmaid - a female servant who milks cows
oil merchant
old-clothes dealer
oynter - an oil-merchant
pie seller
plumer - a dealer in feathers
poulter - seller of poultry
shrimper - one who catches shrimp
skinner - a dealer in furs and skins (essentially, the same thing as a furrier)
spice merchant
spicer - grocer or dealer in spices
stationer - seller of books, etc.; also, a copyist
taverner - innkeeper
thresher - one who thrashes grain, separating it from straw
unguentary - one who sells unguents
waferer - confectioner (a dealer in 'wafers', a kind of cake)
weirkeeper - a keeper of fish traps
wine seller
wood seller
woodmonger - a seller of fuel wood
wool stapler - one who buys and sells wool wholesale

In any society, there is the need for spare time. And what did people do before television? Well, they mostly sang songs, told stories, and danced. From this, some professional entertainers developed.

Also included in this section are artists: those who devote their lives to creating works of beauty and expressiveness. There is enormous overlap between artists and entertainers... I won't get into the argument of whether art should be used to entertain or express the artist's true feelings. That's beyond my scope here, certainly.

bard - a Welsh minstrel
barker - one who advertises at the entrance to a show
bear-ward - the owner of a performing bear
fiddler - this is an unfair translation, "geiger" is applied to any player of bowed and stringed instruments
fresco painter
limner - illuminator of books
lutenist - a lute player
minnesinger - a German minstrel who specialized in love songs
mummer - actor, specifically the predecessors to mimes
nakerer - a player of the naker a small kettle drum
painter - portraits and landscapes
troubadour - most properly a minstrel from the southern part of France (though it can be used of any minstrel who specializes in romances).

Farming and Workers with Flora and Fauna
Ah -- the farmers. Without them, we'd starve. Wresting sustenence from the very earth itself. There's a large number of occupations associated with farming: you need people to watch the animals, work the fields. In fact, probably most people in a medieval society were farmers.

Also included are hunters and gatherers: those who travel into nature and grab things to eat, as well as all those who work with animals.

There's also a good overview of horse history in Europe.

ackerman(acreman) - an oxherder
falconer - breeds, trains, hunts with falcons
fewterer - one who keeps the hunting dogs [put it in whatever category you put falconers and hawkers]
forester - game warden or forest ranger
fowler - one who hunts for wildfowl
goatherd - one who looks after a herd of goats
hawker - breeds, trains, hunts with hawks
hayward - a tender of hedges
horse trainer
master of hounds
ostler - cares for horses
oyster raker - worker on an oyster fishing boat
oysterer - one who catches oysters
parker - caretaker of a park
rat catcher
shepherd - one who looks after a herd of sheep
swineherd - one who looks after a herd of swine (sometimes pigherd)
woolman - sorts wool into differing grades

They may have called it the dark ages for lack of scientific output, but there were still people interested in the world around them, willing to poke and prod it until something broke.

alchemist - a medieval chemist
bearleader - a travelling tutor (a silly name) - related to the figurative use of the word bear to describe a boor.
scrivener - scribe
theologian - a scholar specializing in the study of God and doctorine

The lure of the sea, the crash of the waves: a boat-filled life was the norm for a great many medieval people. Some sailed on rivers, some on the ocean. Exciting and dangerous trade missions with far-off empires, exploring strange new places, and always coming back home to tell exciting stories in the local tavern.

canaller - canal boat worker
hobbler - boat tower on a river or canal
lighter man - worker on a flat-bottomed boat
sea captain
ship's captain
shipchandler - ship provisioner
waterman - riverboat sailor

Regular Folks
One of the problems with coming up with a list of Medieval Occupations is that lots of people in a feudal economy didn't have occupations at all. They were just tenants of other folks. Also, there are in any society, a large number of homeless and impoverished.

This section deals with people like that.

There's a fun story about a peasant, who had a bit of an adventure, at Stefan's Florilegium.

I've also heard that the book A Medieval Life: Cecilia Penifader of Brigstock, c. 1297-1344, by Judith Bennett, is recommended by some schools. It reconstructs the life of Cecilia Penifader, a medieval peasant, from various legal records. I've never read it, but it seems to get good reviews!

buffoon - publically amusing person
clown - a peasant
crofter - tenant of a small piece of land
franklin - a freeholder
gardner - one who gardens
jew - a class of their own in the Medieval Period
palmer - one who had been, or pretended to have been, to the Holy Land
tenter - an unskilled workman's assistant

Game worlds typically have armorers and blacksmiths, but then it breaks down, and everything else is available from the marketplace or the "general store". Add a bit of spice to a campaign by having the player's harness become damaged, and have to deal with the local harness maker - who is also the town shoemaker and his loud wife!

Most of the occupations on this list are craftsmen and service occupations. Because of this, I have seperated out the most common craftsmen from the bulk of the list, so that the gentle reader can make sense of it. The list of common occupations was derived from the tax list for Paris in 1292, from the book Life in a Medieval City, by Francis and Joseph Gies. The number indicates how many there in the city.

Common Craftsmen - sorted by frequency
366 - shoemaker - one who makes and repairs shoes
214 - furrier - one who makes and repairs goods made of furs - esp. clothes
197 - tailor - one who makes and repairs clothing
131 - jeweler - maker of jewelry
106 - pastrycook - baker specializing in pastries
104 - mason - bricklayer
95 - carpenter - one who constructs things from wood
86 - weaver - weaver of cloth
71 - chandler - one who makes candles, also grocer. Often associated with ships (see shipchandler)
70 - cooper - one who makes and repairs barrels and tubs
62 - baker - one who makes bread and other baked goods
58 - scabbard maker - maker of scabbards
54 - hatmaker - maker of hats
51 - saddler - maker of saddles
51 - chicken butcher - butcher of chickens
45 - purse maker - maker of purses
42 - meat butcher - butcher of all sorts of meats, esp beef
36 - buckle maker - maker of buckles
34 - blacksmith - one who works with iron to form metal implements: esp farm tools.
28 - roofer - one who makes and repairs roofs
27 - locksmith - one who makes and repairs locks
26 - ropemaker - maker of rope
24 - tanner - preparer of leather
24 - rugmaker - maker of rugs
24 - harness maker - maker of harnesses
23 - bleacher
22 - cutler - one who makes and repairs cutlery
21 - glover - a glovemaker

Less common craftsmen - sorted alphabetically
accoutrement maker - makes military accessories
alabasterer - worker in alabaster
architect - a designer of buildings and other constructions
arkwright - a maker of "arks" -- wooden chests or coffers
beekeeper - also known as apiarist
bellmaker - these are the little bells that go on sleighs and clothing, as opposed to the large civic bells cast by the bellfounder
besom maker - one who makes brooms (known as besoms in the middle ages: 'broom' was the name of the plant use to make them)
billier - axe-maker
blockcutter - for block printing
bodger - itinerant wood turners (read more)
bottelier - maker of leather bottles
bowyer - maker of bows
brazier - makes brassware
bricker - brick baker, not mason
bricker - brick-maker
broderer - embroiderer
broom-dasher - maker of brooms
campaner - maker of large bells (church-bells, for example)
canvasser - canvas-maker
carder - one who cards wool (combs out wool in preparation for spinning it)
cobbler - shoe maker
coppersmith, redsmith - a worker in copper and brass
cordwainer - worker in fine leather
corsetier - maker of corsets and other undergarments
currier - one who cures leather
delver - ditchdigger
diamantaire - diamond-cutter (actually, diamond-cutting wasn't discovered until after the Middle Ages, but once it was diamantaires usually had their own guilds)
disher - a potter who makes dishes
draper - Originally, drapers were clothiers, though today the British use the word for a dry goods merchant.
dyer - one who dyes cloth
embroiderer - one who decorates fabric with stitched designs
engraver - for printing, not to decorate items
fabricshearer - trims the nap and makes pleats for customers
fewtrer - felt-maker
fletcher - maker of arrows
founder - foundryman
fuller - cloth worker who shrinks, beats, presses cloth
fuller - someone who cleans and thickens cloth by beating it
furniture maker
gilder - one who gilds (applies gold leaf to something)
girdler - leather worker who made girdles and belts, chiefly for the Army
girdler - belt-maker
glassblower - one who makes glass objects by blowing
glazier - maker of stained glass
goldbeater - one who makes gold foil
goldsmith - a worker in precious metals. In the Middle Ages, all people who worked in precious metals were called goldsmiths; the term silversmith is a much later word.
grinder - knife sharpener
hacker - hoe-maker
hatter - one who makes and repairs hats
horner - craftsman who works in horn -- spoons, combs, musical instruments
ivorist - an ivory-carver
joiner - skilled carpenter
knacker - harness-maker
knapper - a worker in flint
lampwright - maker of lamps and lanterns
lancier - a maker of lances
lapidary - worker with precious stones -- usu. other than diamonds
latoner - worker in brass and latten (a brass-like alloy)
limner - someone who illuminates manuscripts
linen-armorer - one who makes cloth armor [same as a merchant taylor]
linener - a shirt maker [also, a linen-draper]
lorimer - maker of horse gear
luthier - a maker of stringed instruments (lutes, guitars, etc.)
mailer - enameller -- not a maker of armor
malemaker - a maker of leather trunks
mapmaker - also known as cartographer
marler - one who digs 'marl', a type of soil used as fertilizer.
marleywoman - a maker of marli, a type of fabric (gauze used for embroidery). Note that embroidery on this material is also known as marli.
master builder - chief architect
merchant taylor - tailors and "linen armourers"; they made the padded tunics soldiers would wear under metal armor
milliner - maker of womens' hats and clothing
miniaturist - painter of miniatures (small paintings usually found on icons or in books)
minter, mintmaster, moneyer - one who mints coins
mirrorer - one who makes mirrors?
nedeller - maker of needles
parchmenter - a parchment-maker
pasteler - a pastry-maker
perukier - a wig-maker [I don't know if the word was used in the Middle Ages; the oldest use of the word peruke I can find is 1548]
plattner - beat out sheets of metal
plumber - worker in lead
pointer - lace-maker
poleturner - maker of polearms (spears, pikes, halberds, etc.)
pot mender
purser - a purse-maker
quilter - a quilt-maker
rectifier - one who distilled alcohol
reedmaker - a maker of flutes and other wind instruments
roper - maker of ropes, nets
rugweaver - one who makes rugs
saltboiler - makes salt by boiling water
salter - makes or deals in salt
sawyer - saws timbers to boards
shingler - wooden roof tiler
shipwright - a ship builder
siever - a maker of sieves (a picture)
silkmaid, silkwoman - a woman who makes items out of silk.
silk-dresser, silk-maker, silk-mercer, silk-dyer, silk-carder - various individuals making silk articles.
smelter - refines raw ore into pure metals
smith - blacksmith
spooner - a spoon-maker
spurrer - maker of spurs
tapicer - tapestry maker
tasseler - one who makes tassels
thacker, thatcher - one who covers roofs with thatch
thonger - maker of leather straps or laces
tile-burner - one who forms clay into tiles and bricks
tiler, tile-theeker, tyler - one who roofs with tile
tile maker - tile-maker
treen maker - one who makes various small wood items
turner - lathe worker (makes turned wooden objects, like chair legs)
upholder - an upholsterer
vaginarius - scabbard-maker (pl. vaginarii)
vintner - a winemaker
webber - weaver
wheeler - maker of spinning wheels
wheelwright - a maker of wheels
wiredrawer - maker of gold and silver wire

Service Occupations
There are many important positions in society for those who do not produce, but serve their fellow man. When they're done their job for the day, there are no new products, no changes in physical objects, but people are moved, jobs get done, and society keeps moving. These are the service workers.

Service workers can play an enormous role in your campaign. All the time, characters need to get their hair cut, have water fetched, or have something written down.

Unfortunately, since this list is so enormous, I've again taken the liberty of separating out the common occupations, again, as defined by the Geis book. The numbers are the count of the occupation in Paris, in 1292.

Common Service Occupations - Sorted by Frequency
199 - maidservant
151 - barber - one who cuts hair, also performed surgery and pulled teeth.
130 - restaurateur - one who owns or runs a restaurant
58 - water carrier
43 - laundress - also known as lavendar
42 - porter - one who carries burdens, or one who waits at doors. Probably the former
29 - doctor
26 - bather - owner of a bath
24 - copyist - one who copies books and documents -- not all of them can read

Less common service occupations - sorted alphabetically
accomptant - an accountant
accoucheur - midwife
accoucheus - midwife
accountant - man who does financial bookkeeping
actuary - man who does financial bookkeeping, clerk
bailiff - the man who makes arrests and executions. Bailiff was not primarily used for the office of policeman. Etymologically, bailiffs were those in charge of the bailey - in effect, manager of the craftsmen and servants in a castle or manor house.
barrister - solicitor or lawyer
bath attendent
bather - owner of a bath
butler - one in charge of the buttery (where alcohol was kept)
carman - one who drives a vehicle for transporting goods
carter - one who drives carts
carver - the servant who cut the meat
ceiler - one who installs ceilings
cellarer - one in charge of the wine cellar
chamberlain - a private attendant who waits on his lord in his bedchamber
chimney sweep - one who cleans chimneys and smokestacks.
chirurgeon - surgeon
clouter - one who fixes things, a tinkerer
cook - one who cooks, especially food.
cowherd - one who looks after a herd of cows. A medieval cowboy, as it were.
currier - see tanner
dapifer - a servant who brings the meat to the table
ditcher - one who digs ditches
diver - one who dives for a living.
dog trainer
drayman - cart driver
dung carter
famulus - "a servant or attendant, esp. of a scholar or a magician" (Random House Dictionary of the English Language)
farrier - maker of tack, esp. horeshoes; also a horse-veteranarian
groom - one who takes care of the horses
harlot - vagabond, beggar, rogue, 14th century male servant, attendant or menial, and 15th century, loose woman
horseleech - veterinarian, farrier
hurdle maker - made 'wattle fences' for sheep
lawyer - a master of the law.
link boy - boy who will carry a torch to guide people through the night
link man - like a link boy, only older
maid - a female household servant. A maid is always female; the word literally means virgin.
marshal - a horse tender
midwife - humorously known as a babycatcher
miller - the person who turns grains into flour.
napier - the person who manages royal linens
panter - keeper of the pantry
paperer - needlemaking industry -- inserted needles into paper to prepare for selling
pavior - one who lays pavement
pavyler - put up pavilions/tents
pissprophet - doctors who would diagnose disease from a patient's urine, specifically from the sight, smell, and taste of the urine.
potboy - cleans out chamber pots
procurator - or proctor, this is a kind of legal agent or representative
prostitute - one who sells sex
ragpicker - sorts through leftover rags, find re-usable ones
raker - street sanitation worker
riveter - one who rivets (a rivet being a nail designed to secure metal to metal)
scullion - the bottom-rung servant in a household
seneschal - senior steward
solicitor - lawyer
sperviter - a keeper of sparrow-hawks
stainer - one who stains wood
stillroom maid
tapster - one who draws ale, etc. at an inn; innkeeper/bartender/barmaid
teamster - one who drives a team of oxen or horses
trencherman - carver, trench-digger
userer - a moneylender, specifically a Jewish moneylender (the only people allowed to hold such a job in the Middle Ages)
wagoner - wagon or cart driver
waller - one who builds walls
wattler - made 'wattle fences' for sheep

"The world is full of broken people... Splints, casts, miracle drugs, and time cannot mend fractured hearts, wounded minds, or torn spirits."

"People cared more in those days.. Something happened, everything changed. The whole world feels.. broken. More and more, we're on our own."
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