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About the book
  • Published: 2 May 2013
  • ISBN: 9781448129379
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

The Faithful Executioner

Life and Death in the Sixteenth Century

Step into the world of Meister Frantz Schmidt: executioner, torturer and dispenser of justice.

Meet Frantz Schmidt: executioner, torturer and, most unusually for his times, diarist.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Frantz entered the executioner’s trade as an Apprentice. 394 executions and forty-five years later, he retired to focus his attentions on running the large medical practice that he had always viewed as his true vocation.

Through examination of Frantz’s exceptional and often overlooked record, Joel F. Harrington delves deep into a world of human cruelty, tragedy and injustice. At the same time, he poses a fascinating question: could a man who routinely practiced such cruelty also be insightful, compassionate – even progressive?

The Faithful Executioner is the biography of an ordinary man struggling to overcome an unjust family curse; it is also a remarkable panorama of a Europe poised on the cusp of modernity, a world with startling parallels to our own.

  • Pub date: 2 May 2013
  • ISBN: 9781448129379
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

About the Author

Joel F. Harrington

Following a distinguished academic career teaching and studying the history of Europe, Joel Harrington is currently Professor of History at Vanderbilt University. He specializes in the Reformation and early modern Germany, with a particular interest in social history. Among his previous publications are A Cloud of Witnesses, Reordering Marriage and Society in Reformation Germany and The Unwanted Child, for which he won the 2010 Roland Bainton Prize for History.

Praise for The Faithful Executioner

“A surprisingly moving story of brutality and redemption”

Dan Jones, Telegraph

“Opens a window on a gruesome world”

Daily Express

“This is a marvelous book about a fascinating subject… It is a virtuoso performance… A brilliant microhistory, a triumph of technique and a wonderful read”

Peter Marshall, Literary Review

“Who can imagine how an executioner feels about his trade? Joel F. Harrington has written a considered and fascinating book which helps us hear the voice of one such man, a professional torturer (and healer) who, astonishingly, kept a diary”

Hilary Mantel

“This is a sympathetic, intelligent and surprisingly tender book”

The Times

“Harrington does an excellent job at recreating the thoughts and fears of a man whose job is one of the most loathed and caricatured”

Ben Wilson, Daily Telegraph

“A vivid window on a fascinating age”

Michael Kerrigan, Scotsman

“Fascinating… This is a surprisingly modern, even topical story that poses difficult questions about capital punishment and what Harrington calls ‘the human drive toward retribution’”

Daniel Stashower, Washington Post

“Vividly drawn… Finely researched and crafted”

Kat Hill, History Today

“Macabre but fascinating”

Simon Griffith, Mail on Sunday Event

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