Joel F. Harrington

The Faithful Executioner
  • The Faithful Executioner

  • 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.

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.