postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies (2014) 5, 295–307. doi:10.1057/pmed.2014.21

‘Modern and genuine Mediaevalism’: Guido Kisch’s romance with the German middle ages

Mitchell B Harta

aDepartment of History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL



During the 1930s and 1940s the eminent historian of medieval German law, Guido Kisch, developed two distinct yet related interpretive strategies that allowed him to respond as a scholar and a Jew to the catastrophe that had consumed Europe. Kisch constructed a medieval Germany characterized by a love of justice and fairness, values derived in large part from the best within Christianity, and that manifested themselves in the positive treatment of Jews. His ideal medieval German jurist was Eike von Repgow, and his lawcode, the Sachsenspiegel, was the supreme expression of this medieval German love of justice. Kisch set this idealized vision of the medieval German and Jewish pasts against contemporary Nazi Germany. In so doing, he also demonstrated another scholarly ideal: unbiased objective scholarship despite personal and professional hardship and loss.

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