Anabaptism in Tyrol: Faithful Resilience Through Persecution (1526-1626)

Book, 2022, 282 pp
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The following study is among the early works on Anabaptism by the renowned historian, Johann Loserth (1846-1936). Anabaptism in Tyrol was first published in German as two separate volumes: In 1892 the volume appeared in the Archiv für österreichische Geschichte with the subtitle, "From its Beginnings until the Death of Jakob Hutter (1526-1536)." In 1893, the same year Loserth became a professor of history at the University of Graz, Austria, the second volume appeared in the same journal with the subtitle, "From 1536 until Its Extinction." The sources he included in the appendices of both volumes, which have been omitted here, further enriched these groundbreaking studies.

As a combined two-volume book covering one century of the rise and demise of Anabaptism in Tyrol it is exceptional, given that it waited 130 years to be published in English. Written in a journalistic style, Loserth assembles the massive trove of archival sources collected by the Austrian jurist and scholar, Josef von Beck (1815-1887), a debt which Loserth acknowledges on the title page of both volumes. While working as a judge in Bratislava in the 1850s, Beck began copying documents related to the history of Anabaptism which he found in archives throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Included and preserved in Beck's archival collection were also the writings by Anabaptists (and Hutterites in particular), which were confiscated and then stored in state archives. After the death of Beck, Loserth inherited his archival holdings, enabling him to undertake a series of wide-ranging studies based on these rare documentary sources; Loserth states in the preface that he made use of 1,317 documents on Tyrol from Beck's collection in preparing this study. Today the vast holdings of the "Beck collection" are made available at the state archives in Brno, Moravia in Czechia.

The reader is presented therefore, with sources from the perspectives of both the state apparatus and Anabaptists themselves, including those non-Anabaptists who sympathized with their plight during the worst years of persecution. Loserth's sympathies show a discerning view of the imperial government's role in the decades of political turmoil-the various phases of the Reformations in Europe-yet his affections for the Moravian lords' struggle for autonomy and resistance to encroachment by the Habsburgs, come though as well. His source base included copious volumes of testimonies from Anabaptists and official government correspondence, particularly in Tyrol. For this reason it seemed fitting to replace the two, lengthy subtitles of the original publications with four words that describe what Loserth and Beck seemed inclined to highlight: the faithful resilience of the Anabaptist communities that originated in Tyrol and their experience through one century of persecution.

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