Ernst Kantorowicz: A Life

The first complete biography of an influential historian whose dramatic life intersected with many great events and thinkers of the twentieth century


Sep 11, 2018
6.12 x 9.25 in.
28 b/w illus.
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This is the first complete biography of Ernst Kantorowicz (1895–1963), an influential German-American medieval historian whose colorful life intersected with many of the great events and thinkers of his time. Born into a wealthy Prussian-Jewish family, he fought in World War I—earning an Iron Cross and an Iron Crescent—before being sent home following an affair with a general’s mistress. Though he was an ardent German nationalist during the Weimar period, after the Nazis came to power he bravely spoke out against the regime before an overflowing crowd in Frankfurt. He narrowly avoided arrest after Kristallnacht, fleeing to England and then the United States, where he joined the faculty at Berkeley, only to be fired in 1950 for refusing to sign an anticommunist “loyalty oath.” From there, he “fell up the ladder” to Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, where he wrote his masterwork, The King’s Two Bodies.

Drawing on many new sources, including numerous interviews and unpublished letters, Robert E. Lerner tells the story of a major intellectual whose life and times were as fascinating as his work.