The Burgermeister's Daughter: Scandal in a Sixteenth-Century German Town

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 1996-03-01
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr

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Historian Steven Ozment's haunting story examines the brutal legal battle between Anna Buschler and her powerful father, the burgermeister of the imperial German City of Schwabisch Hall and a local hero, in the first half of the sixteenth century. A frequent subject of gossip because of her garish dress and flirtatious behavior, Anna was banished from her father's house after she was caught in secret, simultaneous love affairs with two men - one a member of royalty, the other a cavalryman.
After being forced from her home, she brought suit against her father, charging him with abandonment in the very chambers over which he had presided. He responded by taking her captive and chaining her to a table for six months, before she escaped and took up her case again, now adding abuse to the charge of abandonment. Thus began nearly thirty years of on-and-off litigation between Anna and her father, her siblings, and the city council of Hall, as she fought disinheritance and impoverishment. In her legal battles, as in her personal life, she defied the accepted standards of behavior for the women in her age.
Drawing on rare surviving love letters and extensive court records, The Burgermeister's Daughter recaptures Anna's compelling story from the perspectives of the combatants and the testimony of more than forty citizens, shedding light on the politics of sexuality, gender, and family, and demonstrating what a determined woman might do at law even in the Middle Ages. However, the morals of Anna's story reach far beyond the sixteenth century, teaching the modern reader universal lessons about surviving unrightable wrongs and maintaining human dignity through even the most degrading circumstances.

Author Biography

Steven Ozment is McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History at Harvard University.

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