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Dr Paul Michael Kurtz


Paul Michael Kurtz is an historian specialised in history of the humanities, especially theology, philology, and history. His work centres on cultural and intellectual life in 19th-century Germany, with special focus on the Hebrew Bible and ancient Judaism.

Having studied English literature and Hebrew Bible stateside, Kurtz went to Germany for a Dr. phil. in History (University of Göttingen, 2016). He came to Cambridge after a year of postdoctoral research, also at Göttingen.

During postgraduate education, Kurtz held posts and fellowships across both North America and Europe, where his work was housed in departments of history, divinity, and philosophy. After studies at Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of Chicago, he conducted dissertation research on the Sofja Kovalevskaja project “Early Jewish Monotheisms,” funded by the Humboldt Foundation and hosted at Göttingen. While completing his doctorate, Kurtz also held visiting fellowships at Ghent University, Leibniz Institute of European History (Mainz), and Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural & Social Studies (Erfurt). 

Now a Marie Curie Fellow, Kurtz has also been supported by the Fulbright Program, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO), and American Schools of Oriental Research.

Key Publications

Entitled Kaiser, Christ, and Canaan: The Religion of Israel in Protestant Germany, 1871–1918 (Mohr Siebeck, 2018), Kurtz’s first book examines to what extent, in an age of “philological science,” the very enterprise of reconstructing past religion was shaped by liberal Protestant values. It explores what scholars of antiquity considered “religion” and “history” to be, how they sought to access them, and why they pursued them the way that they did. To do so, this study scrutinizes the epistemologies and practices of Julius Wellhausen and Hermann Gunkel to show, on the one hand, a major shift in what counted as proper historiography—in what qualified as the right way to understand the past—at the turn of the 20th century and yet a fundamental continuity in the conceptualization of history and religion despite real, often dramatic shifts across the human sciences, on the other. The book ultimately uncovers how the past was Protestantized, how central questions of the Bible, theology, and the ancient world were in the cultural and intellectual of the German Empire, and how specific conceptual categories and methodological operations were built into the modern study of antiquity.

Other Publications

  • "How 19th-century German classicists wrote the Jews out of ancient history," History & Theory 58, no. 2 (2019), forthcoming.


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