The Dukes of Fernau, for now.

Prologue
THE DUKES OF FERNAU, FOR NOW
A timeline of colonial Courland and Semigalia

Point of Departure:

in 1638, Courland rather unintentionally offers more religious freedom than even the Polish-Lithuaninan Commonwealth, the most tolerant and multi-faith society in Europe.


Key Questions:

What if, instead of Courland and Semigalia being occupied for two years in 1658, it was for a generation or more?
And also what if the Kettlers, the Couronian trading fleet, and thousands of capable settlers managed to flee to their nascent colonies, there to survive in exile, and continue to advance as a society, untethered to their European homeland? Waiting to return, perhaps, but never idly....



Prologue:

Once the Hanseatic League
Brought trade and grew the town of Riga
God was brought there by crusade
And Courland lived in Riga’s shade

The Poles and Lithuania
In their great
res publica
Home to rival Christian factions
Thrived despite their Sejm’s inactions

And then: know you of Kettler's gall
From Semigallia to Senegal?
The Kettler line who dreamed it all
From Livonian Order to Tobago’s fall?

Vassal to the Polish crown
Neutral to the kings all around
But great ships Courland made and sailed
To colonies Jakob dreamed, which failed

Let us keep the Kettlers bold
But trace for them a different fate
Amplify the yield of both
Bold adventures, blind mistakes
 
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Mise-en-scène
Unlike many a timeline of US presidents or English kings, for which this site has plentiful fine historians who might quickly name the relevant characters and settings of future instalments after the first post, this tale starts in a less-written-about corner of Europe, before ranging further afield where many butterflies fear to alight.

So, a little mise-en-scène, shall we?
Poland and Lithuania have been coexisting as a republic since the earliest Jagiellonian days, with their collective nobles electing a leader-for-life as necessary, whom Poles call their King and Lithuanians call their Grand Duke. This is the largest nation in Europe for much of its existence, home to Catholics, Lutherans, Orthodox churches (more than one flavour), heathens, heretics, the odd Muslim, about 60% of the planet's Jews, and people of miscellaneous and probably rather local beliefs.

This "commonwealth" (not a term the res publica ever used to describe itself in its time) was both resilient and restricted for its quirky head-of-state selection. Why go to war with them if you could instead rig their next royal election in favour of your second cousin? Why build a navy to hold them in check on the seas when you could instead convince their nobles that building a navy for Poland and/or Lithuania was waste of money, and thus avoid your rival ever having a meaningful navy in the first place? Being open to manipulation, in some ways, made this republic bend rather than be broken; in other ways it would bend rather than grow taller and stronger.

Up the Eastern shores of the Baltic came crusading knights (largely Germans) and Hanseatic traders, to beat God into locals and get wealth out of the trade routes connecting with the Volga, and via the Volga, more exotic places. Furs, timber, beeswax and more were key desirables at various times. The German-speaking knights rampaging through the neighbourhood pivoted quite well to governance, with first Prussia (the Teutonic Knights) and then Courland and Semigallia (the Livonian Order) signing up to become local rulers, both as vassals to Poland-Lithuania.

Prussia's tale is well-told, for its impact on the history of Germany and more. So we shall turn to the other story.

Gotthard Kettler was first a knight, then a komtur, then eventually the Grand Master of the Livonian Order. In 1561, as wars ended in Livonia (generally, most of the Eastern Baltic area north of Prussia, or at least most of today's Latvia and Estonia), he was confirmed by treaty as the Duke of Courland and Semigallia, as a vassal to Poland and Lithuania. It wasn't the prize he wanted (all Livonia, especially Riga for its trade), but still a nice rise in status for an upstart. His fellow knights became nobles, and they ruled over the local Latvians and Kurs with all the courtesy you might expect of invaders. They did some good, though, and their politically convenient conversion to Lutheranism may have helped them get along with some locals or neighbours a bit better.

His sons Wilhelm and Friedrich ruled after him. Wilhelm had Courland in the West, Friedrich Semigallia in the East. A good horse might cross the entire country with energy to spare, if you picked the right start and finish in the North or South of the country. It was a sliver of land between the republic and the rest of Livonia, which had a way of getting fought over by neighbours rather stronger than Courland and Semigallia.

Wilhelm got along rather poorly with Courland's nobles (by now, sons or grandsons of former knights all) and those nobles appealed to Poland to exile him. This put Friedrich in charge of Courland as well as Semigallia. Both brothers had married well status-wise (ladies from nice German noble houses), but Friedrich died childless.

In the event of the Kettler line dying out, the duchy was to revert to the Polish crown. Friedrich (and various European allies) appealed to allow Jakob Kettler to succeed him - his nephew and Wilhelm's son. Jakob had been filling his head with languages and mercantilist thought and dreams during his father's exile, all across Europe. A Polish king/Lithuanian Grand Duke opposing this died, and a new Polish king/Lithuanian Grand Duke election was more amenable to this succession.

Jakob Kettler was to be declared, by the King/Grand Duke, co-ruler and heir to the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, alongside his uncle.

The year is 1638.
 
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1. Warsaw, 1638
Succession

Wladyslaw IV Vasa, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania

Wladyslaw IV Vasa, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania


"An end to exile at last, Jakob."

Chancellor Firkss had loyally served Jakob's uncle Friedrich since Jakob was a child. And since Friedrich was childless, Courland and Semigallia needed an heir, and they had come to Warsaw to achieve that.

"At last," Jakob answered, neutrally, even coldly. It had taken six years and more. The old king Sigismund was obtuse, and wanted no part of giving his little vassal state to Jakob, son of a Duke Sigismund had to disinherit and exile 30 years earlier. But the old king Sigismund was dead six years now. New king Wladyslaw and his nobles were more agreeable.

Well, mostly more agreeable.

Jakob's father agreed in spoken vow and in writing to yield his claim to the Duchy in favour of his son's. Step one, if you will.

Duke Friedrich had charmed a surprising diversity of diplomatic pressure on Poland and Lithuania to agree. England sent Sir Thomas Roe, for god's sake, who had probably visited more lands than Columbus. Never mind that England loved Courland for its timber and friendly Baltic ports of call, or that Jakob was the godson of the English king. Courland's nobles loved Friedrich, Friedrich loved Jakob, so Courland loved Jakob. Step two, if you will.

This one disagreeable thing was the paper Jakob was staring at, pen in hand. This one disagreeable thing looked like it belonged to the old King's time rather than the new one's. This one disagreeable thing was step three. A pledge Jakob was expected to sign. A pledge that the Protestant and Catholic Churches would be equal in Courland.

Firkss sensed Jakob's unease. A near whisper: "Pledge, Jakob."

Jakob's eyes lifted from the paper to Firkss, and around the room at the King and Grand Duke Wladyslaw, his advisors and attendants. His gaze paused a moment longer on the Jesuit priest nearest the king. Jakob's grandfather had been the last leader of an order of crusading knights, knights who pretty much created Courland and Semigallia. Strong Catholic credentials, those. He'd also converted himself and all those ex-knights to Lutheranism after, the better to get along with the locals. Not particularly strong Catholic credentials there.

Jakob had travelled half of Europe, fought in Russia, studied in Rostock and Leipzig, lived in three courts and many more cities. He realized he simply didn't want to see the kind of Catholic pressure the old king Sigismund tried to foist on Poland and Lithuania unbalancing Courland under his watch. Poland and Lithuania were as diverse as any place in Europe could be, the more with the bigger kingdoms working more and more by divine right and kicking out those who didn't follow their preferred way of god-fearing. This felt wrong here, even to a pragmatist like Jakob.

"Sign, Jakob."

By now Wladyslaw and his Jesuit were both curious at the delay.

Jakob sighed. He considered the successes of Germany, where his forbears had come from, and its diversity. He considered the successes of Poland, to which Courland had been a vassal for three generations, and its tolerance and challenges with intolerance.

He signed as instructed.

"The Protestant and Catholic Churches will be treated equally in Courland and Semigallia under my reign." He said this precision and diplomatic neutrality. "I, Jakob von Kettler, swear it."

"Then I, Wladyslaw Vasa, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, Sweden et cetera" - he waved at a scribe to be sure to record the titles more completely than he'd spoken them - "declare you the rightful heir of the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia et cetera again." The scribe filled in the blanks, then stopped at a change in the King's body language. "Jakob: you may rule with your uncle but only in his name. Maybe build a nice church or two."

"Thank you, my King. I shall." Step three.

Firkss knew when Jakob's mind was flying, and when it alighted on a fully-formed idea after. They walked in silence during the first part. Only after Jakob sighed deeply did Firkss speak again.

"Why the delay signing, my young duke?"
Jakob smirked at the first use of his new title. "I didn't appreciate having Jesuits put words in my mouth. So we shall fulfill their promise in our own way, just to assert a little independence. When we get home, you shall draw up for me a declaration that in Courland and Semigallia, all religions are equal."

It was the chancellor's turn to smirk, though his face looked like he didn't appreciate the humour as much as Jakob did. They both saw it as an insignificant and petulant insubordination, nothing more.

They were both wrong.
 
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2. Kaminiec Podolski, 1639
Death of The Grand Crown Hetman

Stanisław_Koniecpolski.PNG

Stanisław Koniecpolski, Grand Crown Hetman of Poland/Lithuania
"Fo- Fo- Fol-" The Grand Crown Hetman stuttered. "Kurwa mać! "

Somehow, obscenities never triggered his stutter, though so much else could. Soon, nothing would. He was dying, bleeding out on the cobblestones of this lovely town, here on the edge of Polish Crown lands. Farther West than the Cossacks had tended to attack in their various little uprisings.

"Follow the enemy. Yes sir." Samuel Łaszcz signalled to his men to make it so. Łaszcz was an able enough commander, and could have managed putting these damned Cossacks in their place without him. The King's Jesuits had smarted at him giving some Jews too many rights up in Palanga, and were probably keeping score on half a hundred other ways Poland was too easy on non-Catholics. And their whispers inspired the King to make a point.... So never mind how old he was getting - Koniecpolski had to be seen defeating the Cossacks, wherever they tested Poland next.

And oh, yes, they made a point. Never mind that this was but a skirmish compared to the uprising the year before. The Cossacks were thrashed. But still, the old Hetman was shot, and shot in the neck, and that would be that.

"Te- te- te-" he took as deep a breath as he could. "Tell the king. Thank him. For... all. And... sorry."

"It will be done, my lord."

"And tell my s- s- son to s- serve. K-keep s- serving. Be a good man. Give him my love. A- and my ring." He started to gently twist it off himself.

"Sa- Sam.. uel..." the old man's fingers stopped working at the ring. Everything else stopped too. Samuel removed his own coat, and covered the old hetman's face with it. Then he teased the ring the rest of the way off and pocketed it to bring to the old man's son.

"It's been an honour, sir."
 
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...with that, we have the seeds planted to inspire some of the strongest moves in the Cossack uprisings to come earlier and harder, displacing a far greater number of people in the affected lands.
After telling a bit of that story, we'll then return to Courland to see what the impact will end up being there.
And no. We'll have to finally tell a bit of this Courland story in Courland before the Cossacks upset the apple cart.
 
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3. Mitau, Semigallia, 1639
The Dukes Old and Young

image006.jpg


"Elisabeth! It's our young duke here to regale us with tales of our realm!"

Duke Friedrich Kettler was 72 years old and didn't have the energy for governing much any more. Duchess Elisabeth was only a bit younger at 59. Fortunately for them, the "young duke" Jakob - their foster son - probably had the energy to administer any 5 kingdoms at once.

"Greetings Uncle! And you, aunt Elisabeth! I trust you're both well?" They all sat.

"Well enough, young man." Elisabeth waved for refreshments. "As for the rest, you'll understand when you're old."

"What news from Windau and the West?" Straight to business, then. Friedrich loved hearing all the ways Jakob dreamed of improving Courland, and loved all the more hearing the ways he'd actually begun making the improvements happen."

"We're starting to build ships, Uncle!. Both in Windau and Goldingen. I've brought in Dutch master shipbuilders, and our freemen and serfs are taking to the craft well. We used to supply the timber for ships to other countries, and now we're doing the work ourselves, here. " Friedrich smiled.
"This year's plantings on the crown manors are using some of what I learned in my studies. It's still early in the season, but I think it will give us better yields even this harvest. The Dutch need more corn, so we're trying to grow more of that to trade with them. And the manors should start producing more butter, wool, and meat too."

"You know," Friedrich lazily interjected as he accepted a cup of wine from a steward, "you'll have to take time away from all this farming to do the work of a Duke one of these days. I won't last forever."

Elisabeth positively snorted at the joke. "You barely have to do any work, my dear. You need only step out in public on happy occasions to receive the love and affection of your people."

"Just that - it's positively taxing, dear." He gestured aimlessly with his glass, smiling. "This business of inspiring love all the time, it's exhausting. Oh - on the topic of love and its importance in ruling a duchy, though - shall we start making some enquiries about eligible young German princesses on your behalf? Courland and Semigallia shall also be needing a Duchess one of these days."

Jakob was already 28. Perhaps exile had delayed such things. He'd filled the time with learning instead.

"If it pleases you, Uncle."

"Any other important matters of state on which you need the wisdom of your elders?"

"I'll always welcome it!" Jakob paused a moment. "Actually, there's something where a bit more wisdom might have helped me before. As we were setting up the shipyard in Goldingen, we were bringing in craftsmen and goods from all around. You might remember King Wladyslaw declaring last year that the Jews in Polangen had certain rights, exemptions from some duties for example. Well, some of those Polangen Jews were trading with us, bringing this or that of the supplies we needed for the shipyard."

"You know exactly which supplies, and in what amount." At Friedrich's interruption, Elisabeth dipped her fingers in her water glass and flicked at him to hush him.

"Of course, Uncle!" Jakob smiled. "Onward, though. These Polangen Jews also had goods that had nothing to do with our shipyard, and sold those as well. Our collector there asked for duty on the other goods - he was a sensible enough man not to charge for the goods for the shipyard. These Jews said they should not have to pay any more than any other merchant - because the young Duke of Courland had declared to the Diet that all religions should be treated equally."

"Ho ho! And the result?"

"There was at first some conflict, with one of the Jews strongly but peacefully insisting, and a freeman of a local noble's estate striking him, pushing him to the ground. It fortunately went no further, and I was myself visiting Goldingen the next morning. The story was presented to me, to my satisfaction. The hotheaded freeman I left to his liege for justice, though I voiced my displeasure. And the Jew was allowed to buy and sell with the same duty as any other trader. I even encouraged him and his company to return, and trade at Mitau and Windau., or across to Riga."

"Your great-grandfather would surely roll in his grave - the more so if he hadn't converted to Lutheran ways after winning the Duchy."

"I'm sure you're right, Uncle. But I quickly saw the goods bought and sold, and thought of it little differently than I thought of the new agricultural ways we are now practicing on the ducal farms. For good or ill - or both - this is a seed we have planted. It is already growing. It will surely bring change and likely bring trouble. But its harvest will surely bring us fortune as well."

"May it prove so, Jakob. You have a way of peering toward the future and seeing more than most do."

"Thank you. The more commerce up the Amber Road, the better. No matter how the traders worship."

Elisabeth felt more skeptical than her husband. Didn't each new generation always shock the preceding one as it outgrew older ways? Still, the trade. Jakob's efforts to expand trade in the duchy were already clearly paying dividends....

"To commerce, then, nephew." She raised her glass, the old duke and the young raised theirs in response.

"To commerce."
 
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Next up, the start of the most impactful Cossack uprising. Past While I have a good sense of where I'll have things go for Courland and Semigallia, I have to bit of butterfly management ahead of me to work out the reactions from Russia, Sweden, and perhaps the Ottomans and Hapsburgs.

So, if any helpful commenter really knows their mid-17th-century history in those countries and Poland-Lithuania, I'd simply love to hear from you.
 
4. Bila Tserkva, Ruthenia (Poland), 1640
Motke the Merchant

"Walk away, with and from."

The words were a shock. Maciej probably only registered them at all for their familiarity. His family had passed down stories of "Motke the Merchant" - some family ancestor who had led a colourful life a few generations ago. Motke was a real ancestor and was a real merchant, too. But by now some of the stories probably had some variations of the tales of Sinbad in them, or Aesop's fables, or any number of true merchant stories from Yiddish memory, or even Polish or Hanseatic memory too.

Maciej might have been named "Motke" himself, but his father thought it might bring him fortune to have a Polish name now that their family had been settled - even thriving - in Poland for so long. A Polish name didn't feel like good fortune today.

The common thread in these Motke the Merchant stories were some deal that suddenly or less suddenly turned sour, forcing Motke the Merchant to walk away from the deal he thought he would have, and choose what things he needed to walk away with, versus what things he could bear to walk away from. A handy framework for wrapping life lessons into bedtime adventure stories any child would happily devour.

Maciej's shock at his father's words came from the context. He was 16 years old now, fully capable of assisting his father in managing this estate or any other estate to the exacting standards of any Polish nobleman. He was probably better than his father at anything to do with managing the horses and the bookkeeping. He wasn't really of an age for bedtime stories any more. And his father seemed to be more talking to himself, here on the hill between the mansion and the stables. And a moment ago, they'd been talking of death coming for all Jews and Poles, from down the river.

40 people had come, all of them Jews, all exhausted save a few who had been riding horses or horse-drawn carts. His father has asked Maciej to bring them water, bread, and any possible comfort, with the help of any of the available serfs. Then his father had gone to greet them.

---

"We come from Cherkasy. The Cossacks came there from Czehryń killed every Pole and Jew they could find."
"Oh... oh... Come: drink, rest. And tell us the tale, as you can."
"Koniecpolski tried to force the wrong Cossack off his land."
"Koniec - "
"I know what you're thinking. This was the son of the old Hetman. He thought it might honour his father's memory to go tell a bunch of Cossacks their land was actually his father's, and now his."
"The Cossacks disagreed, I take it?"
"Yes... though it was more about which Cossacks disagreed. Have you heard the name Bohdan Khmelnytsky? Yes? Respected. Educated. Experienced warrior and leader. The key bit of land was his. Blink an eye, suddenly many peoples grumblingly tolerant of having Poland in charge are armed and allied."
"But doesn't Poland always brush these uprisings off?"
"Scale, my friend. They probably thought this was another uprising like that, and sent the first force they could to crush it quickly. It seems they were crushed instead. That was three weeks ago, and I haven't seen news of any Polish officer of significance alive and not captive. I'd have seen such news, had it come West. Have you heard anything?"
"Not from that way. The family of this estate went West. Safety for their younger children, just in case, and military duty for the older ones."
"We must seek safety for our own, now. The Cossacks will come here. If we are here - including you - we will die. Do you know where we can go?"
"I've always heard Jews are welcome in Warsaw, and Krakow. And though I can't speak for the welcome, I've heard Courland's given up taxing Jews any more than anyone else."
"I prefer our chances farther from Poles, for now. If you have the provisions and horses, we'll head north to Viciebsk in Lithuania, then follow the Daugava to Courland."
"You know the land well, then?"
"Just the maps. Part of my family tree goes back to navigators and mapmakers in Mallorca, before. We've passed down some of the skills. Half the family documents I saved are probably maps."
"Before. I'm sorry."
"We all have some sorry in our stories. Let's try not add much more today and tomorrow."

---

The serfs, under the guidance of Maciej's father, tended to the guests. They would not normally have been accommodated in the house; but normally wasn't today. Normally wasn't Poles and Jews killed wherever Cossacks could catch them.
Maciej took charge of the horses. Every horse and cart from their estate was to be used to travel. The horses and carts the guests had come with needed more tending to; Maciej had others tend to them, and pack any food that could travel well was packed and put on carts or in saddlebags. He asked that they record what was where, and in what quantity. And then he rode to the town, to the synagogue, to tell the Jews to prepare, and warn the Poles... to warn everyone, really.
Then he returned to the estate, and saw the packing and preparations in the stables were well in hand. Most of the serfs - neither Polish nor Jewish - he told to go to their families and stay there. The rest he would need in the morning, after which they too would be let go. By the time he deemed the work and records sufficient, he returned to the mansion. There, he found the refugees either asleep or else staring blankly in a way that might have been nearly as restful as their companions' sleep.

Then Maciej and his father stepped under the stars to walk toward their smaller cottage. Both were bone-tired from helping others, and only spoke what most needed speaking.
"Father, I passed news to the synagogue for them to share. We are provisioned for about four or five days. We will need to resupply as we go. Whatever blankets people are using here they can pack in the morning."
"Thank you, Maciej. Well done. It strikes me that today you are "Maciej the Merchant", worthy heir to Motke the Merchant. Before you sleep tonight, look around our home. We may not see it again. Decide what you must walk away with, and what you can walk away from."

---

Maciej slept. He dreamed of maps and merchants, of men seeking to make it home to their families with wild profits, or else with their lives, or both. Any threads of story were muddled and inconsistent. Merchant stories aren't so different from pirate stories, it's just about how little land is in the telling.

---

When the first rooster crowed, Maciej and his father woke. Maciej went to the stables with the walk away with belongings they'd each decided were too precious to leave behind. He would never enter that house again, but that thought didn't enter his mind. He directed stablehands - liminally, they knew their work - to get packs and saddlebags onto the horses... and everything else. And then he took his favourite horse, "Miko", on a short ride to look at the land around. They expected trouble from the East or Southeast. He saw nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe trouble was out of earshot of roosters.

The guests sleeping in the mansion might also have been out of earshot of roosters. Or else the call of a rooster wasn't enough to break whatever peace or horror they found in their dreams. Maciej and his father woke those that needed waking, prepared those that needed preparing. After a breakfast - mostly the foods that wouldn't travel so well - they were ready to go in an hour.

And in that hour, trouble woke, too.
There were fires to the south, visible in the morning light, and there was dust. Maciej wasn't really sure what signs to look for, but fires and dust seemed enough. He rounded the hill to find his father, who he found speaking to the man - Tevel - who'd spoken on behalf of the Cherkasy Jews when they arrived.
"Forgive me interrupting. Fire and dust They're coming.
"From which direction?"
"South. From toward Uman. Not Cherkasy."
Maciej knew that any raiders from that direction intent on killing Poles and would be headed right to this hill and Bila Tserkva behind it.
His father turned to Tevel, then back to Maciej.
"Show us, son."

---

And so they had rounded the hill again, to see how fast doom was moving. Doom nearly always moves too fast, including on this morning. And this is where Maciej felt utterly displaced to hear his father mumbling, to himself or the coming Cossacks:

"Walk away, with and from."

The hill paused a moment, at that. They did not seem to have enough time.

"Tevel, take the left way around the town. Once Bila Tserkva is behind you, I think you will be safe enough, at least until Bila Tserkva's fate is also decided. Beyond then, may your family's maps guide you well."
Tevel nodded, in silence, and bowed deeply enough to leave Maciej confused.

"My son. I am thinking now on all the stories of Motke the Merchant. Misadventures, discoveries. We've laughed at poor Motke's expense for nearly a century now in this family, yes?" He chuckled, and smiled at Maciej. Then he sobbed. "I know this estate and all it holds. I can give the Cossacks reasons to pause here, as Tevel's people did yesterday. I am hearing the voice of Motke telling me that a deal has been lost. What I must walk away with is the knowledge my son lives. And to have that, I find I am willing to walk away from everything else. Including my life."

Maciej stood in silent shock.

"For it to make any difference, you must go now." He put his arms around his son, so slowly, so firmly. "I love you, my son."

"I..." Maciej's arms finally embraced his father, now that he knew he would never again do so. "I love you."

They held the embrace for a long time, though it could never be long enough. Then his father walked back to the mansion on the hill, without looking back.

---

Nearly three weeks later, hundreds of Jews arrived in Dünaburg, and crossed the Düna river there into Semigallia, which one of Tevel's more fanciful maps showed as the tip of an eel's tail - the furthest inland corner of Courland and Semigallia, with the Baltic end of the country shown as the eel's open mouth. Tevel's people and Maciej were outnumbered by so many from Bila Tserkva who had joined them after Maciej's warning. Others who remained within that town's walls died there, or fled and died elsewhere, or some few fled and lived on elsewhere.

The number of refugees was so great that the Duke himself rode to greet them by the Düna, and decide what to do. At first, Duke Jakob spoke to the leaders of the Bila Tserkva Jews, the most numerous group among these new arrivals. But eventually, they introduced him to the "mapmaker" and the "young man whose warning saved us."

"Welcome to Semigallia. I am Jakob, Duke of Courland and Semigallia. I understand my nation is richer by a thousand or more Jews thanks to" - he held out his hand at you to make clear he was asking for their names - "a mapmaker and a young man who managed many caravan matters."

Tevel bowed. "I suppose I am your mapmaker, my lord. Tevel ben Elisha. Truthfully, more an estate manager than a mapmaker, though."

Tevel's and Jakob's eyes turned to Maciej.

"My lord." For nearly three weeks, his Polish name had felt like a risk or a curse on the one hand, and a last inheritance from his father on the other. But he had other inheritances from his father, too.
"Please call me Motke."
 
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With that, we have destabilized Poland-Lithuania a bit harder and earlier than OTL. And Courland's rapid development of numerous industries under Jakob is blessed to have a sudden influx of rather skilled immigrants.

The episode above bounced around in my head for many weeks. Courland's industrial and naval growth and the launch of its colonies are up soon. Just need to find the right narrative elements to wrap those in ...

... before the Baltic blows up.
 
Is German the lingua franca?
A surprisingly tricky question.
The nobility in Courland was absolutely German-speaking, and kept marrying other Germans as much as possible. Since Hanseatic times, German was the main language of trade around the Baltic.

The characters of the last episode would have spoken Yiddish among themselves, would have certainly been fluent in Polish, and would likely have learned at least some German or Lithuanian.

Duke Jakob OTL learned several languages in his exile, though Yiddish would not have been among them. The final exchange above might have taken place in either Polish or German.

It’s worth noting that one thing that endeared Jakob to those he ruled was that he learned and spoke Latvian.
 
Shocked this hasn't gotten more attention yet! Loved your writing on that, and i'm curious about the premise, keep it up!
You are kind. Thank you!

As this is my first writing on this site, I will surely remember your username forever, as the first to praise this tale.

And for my part, if this is receiving less attention that it might merit, I chalk it up to my choice of less-familiar subject matter. Maybe the pretentious poem that kicked off the prologue didn’t help me either.

No regrets. I’m here to learn, and I’m enjoying the learning immensely so far.
 
You are kind. Thank you!
You're welcome! But it's you that has been writing, so i must insist that it's me that has to thank you :p
As this is my first writing on this site, I will surely remember your username forever, as the first to praise this tale.
I'm honored, forever shall be the King of all Dixieland remembered (lol!). Now truly, it feels nice to make nice, i guess :) although i must admit my intentions weren't so selfless - I just loved the premise and when i looked at the lack of feedback i went "gods be damned if this affects the motivation of whoever is behind this! I want my new pet TL good and alive!" and, as you can see, took matters into my own hands :biggrin:
And for my part, if this is receiving less attention that it might merit, I chalk it up to my choice of less-familiar subject matter. Maybe the pretentious poem that kicked off the prologue didn’t help me either.

No regrets. I’m here to learn, and I’m enjoying the learning immensely so far.
Sometimes it's just slow starts, you know? I think the poem has its charm, but it was kinda anticlimactic. Longer threads tend to attract more attention (due to the possibility of bulge-reading) and usually TLs that get bombastic early are either 1. Of a particularly bombastic subject 2. Of a particularly bombastic delivery (i.e first post already has the deep juice of the TL in it) or both, i've seen yours is tending to a slow-burning of sorts (after all, 4 chapters in and technically we didn't get to the point of the TL), i liked it a lot, but when you have an unfamiliar subject matter, curious people will want to get the feels right away - or they'll want content-hoarding, so well, in the moment you have neither, but it's good to see that you're keeping a uplifting attitude, after all, it's all for funsies ain't it? :)
 
A surprisingly tricky question.
The nobility in Courland was absolutely German-speaking, and kept marrying other Germans as much as possible. Since Hanseatic times, German was the main language of trade around the Baltic.

The characters of the last episode would have spoken Yiddish among themselves, would have certainly been fluent in Polish, and would likely have learned at least some German or Lithuanian.

Duke Jakob OTL learned several languages in his exile, though Yiddish would not have been among them. The final exchange above might have taken place in either Polish or German.

It’s worth noting that one thing that endeared Jakob to those he ruled was that he learned and spoke Latvian.

Honestly, it was a rarity for a European royal not to speak several languages and including the most common ones of their subjects, at least the one who lived closed by. Christian V of Denmark was seen as kind of simple because he only spoke Low German (his native tongue), Danish, German and French.
 
Honestly, it was a rarity for a European royal not to speak several languages and including the most common ones of their subjects, at least the one who lived closed by. Christian V of Denmark was seen as kind of simple because he only spoke Low German (his native tongue), Danish, German and French.
To me, it makes complete sense to have expected that of rulers at any time, but I can't be sure of how much present-day bias is creeping in for me in saying that. It might be that the Eastern shores of the Baltic, so used to being ruled by foreigners/invaders, had rather lower expectations. Many secondary sources like to copy-paste "...even knew the Latvian language" when listing the languages (at least 6) he was known to speak.
 
To me, it makes complete sense to have expected that of rulers at any time, but I can't be sure of how much present-day bias is creeping in for me in saying that. It might be that the Eastern shores of the Baltic, so used to being ruled by foreigners/invaders, had rather lower expectations. Many secondary sources like to copy-paste "...even knew the Latvian language" when listing the languages (at least 6) he was known to speak.

Yes, but while the ruler often knew the language of the ruled, there was a tendency of nobility to pretend they didn’t speak it [1]. But a noble and a ruler differ and have different interests. For a noble only speaking prestige language gives prestige, for a ruler it makes him look stupid. The Kettelers were in truth just nobles raised above their rank and their relatives in Germany wasn’t even imperial knights but normal territorial knights, so by showing all the language he spoke including Latvian, they’re saying he was a true royal.

[1] Some of it was general obnoxiousness, but it was also a statement of wealth, because it meant you didn’t use the local monolingual peasant as servants and you had people to interact with the servants,
 
Yes, but while the ruler often knew the language of the ruled, there was a tendency of nobility to pretend they didn’t speak it [1]. But a noble and a ruler differ and have different interests. For a noble only speaking prestige language gives prestige, for a ruler it makes him look stupid. The Kettelers were in truth just nobles raised above their rank and their relatives in Germany wasn’t even imperial knights but normal territorial knights, so by showing all the language he spoke including Latvian, they’re saying he was a true royal.

[1] Some of it was general obnoxiousness, but it was also a statement of wealth, because it meant you didn’t use the local monolingual peasant as servants and you had people to interact with the servants,
Well said (and footnoted). A devilish anachronist in me wants to see this as a 17th-century equivalent of Kettler brand management having succeeded at raising both the profile and the lasting reputation of Jakob Kettler's public persona: the success of a celebrity's paid social media manager as the positive tweets and retweets pour in.
One might picture such a brand manager advising Kettler to marry a daughter to a Kur or commercially-successful Latvian.

I'm also filing your thought away for future use, though - as learning even more languages will be of importance to the Kettlers where this timeline will take them.
 
5. Economic Historian Blog: "Good, Fast and Cheap"
So, you want to write about economic history? How about writing about the history of economics? Well, I have bad news for you.

You know that classic old triangle:
Choose two, loser.


Well, most writing about economics and history is the same. Take "good economist" "good historian" and "good writer" and choose two. The third, well, sorry. It is the nature of the universe that you will suck at the third.
(Actually, if you chose "good economist", chances are you'll be a limited writer anyway.)

I've been reading "Outsourcing Empire: How Company-States Made the Modern World" lately. Great book if you love dense language and sentences with long words, multiple clauses and complex thought all layered together like a multiversal Celtic knot. I'd run it through Google Translate, only Google Translate tells me it's already in English. Ok, so I'll just go get my big boy masters student pants on, slam back a coffee and see what knowledge I can disentangle from the prose.

Seriously, the book makes good points. I'd just rather understand them more easily, because I'm lazy and TAs are underpaid.

You have the Dutch East India Company, and the English/British one, both founded at the start of the 17th century. You have the Portuguese sailing the fuck out of the shores of Africa and the Indian Ocean, too, with a slightly different economic model. The Brits and Dutch both handed a whack of autonomy and monopoly rights to these companies, and their interactions with those they met, and each other, ended up laying the groundwork for international systems of trade etc. Portugal was less completely a company-style approach - there was a whiff of that in Prince Henry the Navigator's time, and much much later a company-style approach for their factories and land holdings in India in particular. But all told, a little different.

Why this model? So kinda-sorta-private enterprise is goaded into investing in taking the risks and grabbing the goods for your country. It totally worked, even if in many cases the crown (or royal family members) would own a chunk of the ventures.

What fucking blows my mind is the exception. Courland and Semigallia comprise this backwater duchy in the armpit hairs of the Baltic, poor as dust. The Duke's got completely crap ability to tax people without nobles backing him up, and they sooooo don't back him up, and yet he still Westernizes the place in the span of two decades, growing industries like shipbuilding, iron-making, gunpowder manufacture and more out of basically NOTHING. How? He's just the paramount landlord of the place. If nobles won't let him up the taxes to fund stuff, he'll just point at some land he owns, piss on it like some magic dog, and POOF up springs a state-of-the-art factory to make new cool shit.

All those other countries had wealth, and people, and prodded them to go forth and take over the world's wealth, women, and wherewithal by offering them monopoly rights over giant blobs' worth of world maps. There was no Courland East India Company, or Courland West India Company, or Courland Africa Company (not like the VIC and EIC, anyway). There was Jakob Kettler-comma-landlord investing in putting new and profitable things on land he owned, like your weird uncle buying ever more Lego sets to fill his basement.

No wonder Sweden had to yeet that dude right out of there. No wonder it didn't really stop him.

---

With apologies and thanks to Andrew Phillips & J.C. Sharman, who really made good points in this (real) book. It's just a bit densely written for my taste.
 
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