Based on the rare and until now overlooked journal of a Renaissance-era executioner, the noted historian Joel F. Harrington's The Faithful Executioner takes us deep inside the alien world and thinking of Meister Frantz Schmidt of Nuremberg, who, during forty-five years as a professional executioner, personally put to death 394 individuals and tortured, flogged, or disfigured many hundreds more. But the picture that emerges of Schmidt from his personal papers is not that of a monster. Could a man who routinely practiced such cruelty also be insightful, compassionate—even progressive? In The Faithful Executioner, Harrington vividly re-creates a life filled with stark contrasts, from the young apprentice's rigorous training under his executioner father to the adult Meister Frantz's juggling of familial duties with his work in the torture chamber and at the scaffold. With him we encounter brutal highwaymen, charming swindlers, and tragic unwed mothers accused of infanticide, as well as patrician senators, godly chaplains, and corrupt prison guards. Harrington teases out the hidden meanings and drama of Schmidt's journal, uncovering a touching tale of inherited shame and attempted redemption for the social pariah and his children. The Faithful Executioner offers not just the compelling firsthand perspective of a professional torturer and killer, but testimony of one man's lifelong struggle to reconcile his bloody craft with his deep religious faith. The biography of an ordinary man struggling for his soul, this groundbreaking book also offers an unparalleled panoramic view of Europe on the cusp of modernity, a society riven by violent conflict at all levels and encumbered by paranoia, superstition, and abuses of power. Thanks to an extraordinary historical source and its gifted interpreter, we recognize far more of ourselves than we might have expected in this intimate portrait of a professional killer from a faraway world.
In 1573, the alchemist Anna Zieglerin gave her patron, the Duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, the recipe for an extraordinary substance she called the lion's blood. She claimed that this golden oil could stimulate the growth of plants, create gemstones, transform lead into the coveted philosophers' stone—and would serve a critical role in preparing for the Last Days. Boldly envisioning herself as a Protestant Virgin Mary, Anna proposed that the lion's blood, paired with her own body, could even generate life, repopulating and redeeming the corrupt world in its final moments. In Anna Zieglerin and the Lion's Blood, Tara Nummedal reconstructs the extraordinary career and historical afterlife of alchemist, courtier, and prophet Anna Zieglerin. She situates Anna's story within the wider frameworks of Reformation Germany's religious, political, and military battles; the rising influence of alchemy; the role of apocalyptic eschatology; and the position of women within these contexts. Together with her husband, the jester Heinrich Schombach, and their companion and fellow alchemist Philipp Sommering, Anna promised her patrons at the court of Wolfenbüttel spiritual salvation and material profit. But her compelling vision brought with it another, darker possibility: rather than granting her patrons wealth or redemption, Anna's alchemical gifts might instead lead to war, disgrace, and destruction. By 1575, three years after Anna's arrival at court, her enemies had succeeded in turning her from holy alchemist into poisoner and sorceress, culminating in Anna's arrest, torture, and public execution. In her own life, Anna was a master of self-fashioning; in the centuries since her death, her story has been continually refashioned, making her a fitting emblem for each new age. Interweaving the history of science, gender, religion, and politics, Nummedal recounts how one resourceful woman's alchemical schemes touched some of the most consequential matters in Reformation Germany.
Katharina von Bora, wife of Martin Luther, was by any measure the First Lady of the Reformation. A strong woman with a mind of her own, she would remain unknown to us were it not for her larger than life husband. Unlike other noted Reformation women, her primary vocation was not related to ministry. She was a farmer and a brewer with a boarding house the size of a Holiday Inn - and all that with a large family and nursing responsibilities. In many ways, Katie was a modern woman - a Lean In woman or a modern-day version of a Proverbs 31 woman. Katharina's voice echoes among modern women, wives and mothers who have carved out a career of their own. Decisive and assertive, she transformed Martin Luther into at least a practicing egalitarian. Katharina was a full partner who was a no-nonsense, confident and determined woman, a starke Frau who did not cower when confronted by a powerful man. Ruth Tucker invites readers to visit Katie Luther in her sixteenth-century village life - with its celebrations and heartaches, housing, diet, fashion, childbirth, child-rearing and gender restrictions - and to welcome her today into our own living rooms and workplaces.
The essays in Topographies of Tolerance and Intolerance explore lived experiences of religious plurality, providing insights into religious coexistence during the early modern period. In doing so, they challenge the narrative of a simple progression of tolerance and confessional identity.
A fresh and fascinating history of crime and violence in England through the office of the coroner In his fascinating debut, Matthew Lockwood explores the history of crime, homicide, and suicide in England over four centuries through the office of the coroner. While the office was established to investigate violent or suspicious deaths, Lockwood asserts that the demands of competing parties gradually shaped its systems and transformed England into a modern state earlier than is commonly acknowledged. Weaving together strands of social, legal, economic, and political history, this book will interest scholars across a range of fields.
During a career lasting nearly half a century, Meister Frantz Schmidt (1554-1634) personally put to death 392 individuals and tortured, flogged, or disfigured hundreds more. The remarkable number of victims, as well as the officially sanctioned context in which they suffered at Schmidt’s hands, was the story of Joel Harrington’s much-discussed book The Faithful Executioner. The foundation of that celebrated work was Schmidt's own journal--notable not only for the shocking story it told but, in an age when people rarely kept diaries, for its mere existence. Available now in Harrington’s new translation, this fascinating document provides the modern reader with a rare firsthand perspective on the thoughts and experiences of an executioner who routinely carried out acts of state brutality yet remained a revered member of the local community, widely respected for his piety, steadfastness, and popular healing. Based on a long-lost manuscript thought to be the most faithful to the original journal, this modern English translation is fully annotated and includes an introduction providing historical context as well as a biographical portrait of Schmidt himself. The executioner appears to us not as the frightening brute we might expect but as a surprisingly thoughtful, complex person with a unique voice, and in these pages his world emerges as vivid and unforgettable. Studies in Early Modern German History
Throughout the many political and social upheavals of the early modern era, names were words to conjure by, articulating significant historical trends and helping individuals and societies make sense of often dramatic periods of change. Centered on onomastics—the study of names—in the German-speaking lands, this volume, gathering leading scholars across multiple disciplines, explores the dynamics and impact of naming (and renaming) processes in a variety of contexts—social, artistic, literary, theological, and scientific—in order to enhance our understanding of individual and collective experiences.