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Politics, Religion, and the Birth of the Public Sphere: England, 1685-1688

by Joseph Sramek

Spirited intellectual debate within a late 17th century London coffeehouse.

Politics, Religion, and the Birth of the Public Sphere places students in the turbulent political and religious debates of late seventeenth century England, debates that were fundamental in shaping modern civil society. Other themes, such as the burgeoning Scientific Revolution, cultural transformations such as Restoration theater, gendered debates about the appropriate role of women in public debates, and the role of sociability in the development of major intellectual and moral theories are also foregrounded in the game. The game concludes by simulating the so-called “Glorious Revolution” of late 1688, resolving this significant event in English and Anglo-American history through a variety of player actions throughout the game.

This is a Level 3 game that is still under development but has been approved by the Reacting Editorial Board (REB) for general use. A detailed explanation of the editorial process and game levels can be found on our REB Page.



Cultural and Social History; History of Medicine and Health; History of Science and Technology; Literature / English; Philosophy; Political Science and Government; Religion; Western Civ/History

17th Century; Modern History

In a Few Words
Divine right vs. natural law; coffee and politics

Notable Roles

Marquess of Halifax, William Penn, Lord John Churchill

Themes and Issues  
Legitimacy of government, tolerance, science and culture

Player Interactions 
Factional, Competitive, Collaborative, Coalition-Building

Sample Class Titles

Reading the Coffeehouse: Print, Politics, and Periodicals; Tudor-Stuart Britain; Roots of Anglo-American Democratic Culture; Age of Revolutions, 1688-1789

Level 3 game (what's that mean?)

Money, Rolling Dice

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
The game is a social game akin to Greenwich Village rather than a "parliament/Congress game" that is more typical among Reacting games. This can be either easier or harder depending on what instructors are used to.

Primary Source Highlights
Sir Robert Filmer, Patriarcha; Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan; John Locke, Second Treatise on Government; John Locke, Letter on Toleration


Using the Game

Class Size and Scalability 
This game is recommended for classes with 12-35 students.

Class Time  
For this game, 3 to 6 sessions are recommended. 

Possible Reacting Game Pairings
This game can be used on its own, or with other games. These pairings are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive or prescriptive.  Birth of the Public Sphere may pair well with:


You can adjust the assignments to fit the desired learning outcomes of your game. This game can include traditional paper/research/thesis-driven writing, journalism, and creative writing. All roles are required to give formal speeches.


"This game is very rich and really engaging. I like the inclusion of both scientific and cultural aspects in the game, and would be pretty excited about playing this in a class along with 'Stages of Power.'"

"It covers a critical moment in English constitutional, intellectual, and religious history—one with important implications for US history as well. The texts are rich and nuanced, and the characters are fascinating."

"This game brings to life a notoriously complex moment in history (one that can be really difficult to teach) that shaped political and religious thinking over the ensuing centuries. My sense is that this game would be most successful in a classroom where the GM is pretty familiar with these key texts and their historical context and the students are prepared to tackle unfamiliar concepts and terminology."


Reacting Consortium members can download all game materials below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.  

Please Fill out the Permissions Request Form Before Using Birth of the Public Sphere in Your Class!


All students need a Gamebook, which includes resources and historical content. Members can download the Gamebook, and provide it to students for free or at cost.

VERSION 2.2. Updated June 2020.

Instructor's Manual

The Instructor's Manual includes guidance for assigning roles, presenting historical context, assignments, activities and discussion topics, and more.

Role Sheets

Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, suggestions for further reading, and role-specific info or assignments.  

Additional Resources 

Resources for Introduction and/or Debrief


Joseph Sramek

Joseph Sramek is an associate professor of history at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he also serves as program coordinator and Director of Undergraduate Studies for the History and History-Education majors. He is the author of Gender, Morality, and Race in Company India, 1765-1858 (Palgrave, 2010) and frequently cited journal articles on British tiger hunting and masculinity (Victorian Studies, 2006) and religion and greater senses of Britishness in the empire (Journal of British Studies, 2015). He is currently researching senses of British and imperial national identities as lived experiences in colonial India over the long 19th century. He is also working on a second game for RTTP about British politics during the “Age of Peel” during the 1840s. Since 2015, he has actively taught with RTTP and has played nearly 20 different games with his students thus far.

Reacting and Related Titles

  • Reform or Revolution: Britain, 1830-1848


Members can contact game authors directly

We invite instructors join our Facebook Faculty Lounge, where you'll find a wonderful community eager to help and answer questions. We also encourage you to submit your question for the forthcoming FAQ, and to check out our upcoming events


Patriots and Loyalists
Patriots, Loyalists, and Revolution in New York City, 1775-1776

The Enlightenment
The Enlightenment in Crisis: Diderot's Encyclopedié in a Parisian Salon, 1750

French Revolution
Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791


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