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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent source for sixteenth-century Germany
Steven Ozment creates a book that is rich in research but also in storytelling. Ozment tells the story of Anna Buschler, the burgermeister of Hall's daughter and the scandal that erupted in this small sixteenth-century town. Ozment painstakingly recreates the small German town that Anna grew up in, we are introduced to her story through personal letters and court...
Published on October 26, 2003 by Danielle Apodaca

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15 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "good" example for bad research
I am from Schwaebisch Hall, the town where the Anna Bueschler story happened, and know a little bit about its history. For me, this book is crass disappointment and made me really angry. Though written by a harvard professor, it is full of mistakes that are sometimes really ridiculous and prove that the author never did any serious research on his subject. Only one...
Published on March 13, 2000


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent source for sixteenth-century Germany, October 26, 2003
Steven Ozment creates a book that is rich in research but also in storytelling. Ozment tells the story of Anna Buschler, the burgermeister of Hall's daughter and the scandal that erupted in this small sixteenth-century town. Ozment painstakingly recreates the small German town that Anna grew up in, we are introduced to her story through personal letters and court documents. His goal isn't to show that Anna was innocent of the crimes that were brought against her, but to show that the actions of her family and the courts were quite severe. Throughout the book we begin to understand the role of women, in particular daughters in sixteenth-century Germany.
Ozment relies on the personal letters of Anna, Daniel and Erasmus and he also looks at the court documents. He expertly tells the story of times and of the sources he had which is sadly not too much. But his use of his sources and the history of the period, Ozment creates a book that engrosses the reader into Anna's life and that of a daughter in sixteenth-century Germany. However, Ozment's sources are his greatest weakness. Since he has so few resources, there lies his limitations. Ozment is only able to tell the story that he is presented with and speculates on what he does not have. For example, in Chapter 3, Ozment brings forth the accusation of incest between Anna and he father. Ozment shows a quote out of the court documents from Anna saying that her father "abused her maidenly modesty" (121). With this quote, he takes the information to a new level. He does not really state that the quote could have been said to gain sympathy, but rather takes it that Anna's father could have molested her. Ozment wants to show Anna in a heroic light that he will stop at nothing to show her in nothing but a good perspective. Which is further seen in last sentence, "Anna may have been more heroic than the burgermeister of Hall and the Schenk of Leimpurg [her father] (194)."
As the tale of Anna goes on, it becomes less like a historical analysis but rather a sympathetic tale of one girls struggle against the indignities of her father and the court systems. Ozment ability as a storyteller brings Anna's story to life and the struggles of women during the sixteenth-century.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love, Religion, Sex, Greed, and Germans--Can't Be Beat!!, August 29, 2006
By 
Daniel A. Stone (Schenectady, New York United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
There are few stretches of the imagination by which Anna Büschler can be called typical of her time and place. First, she was a member of the embryonic bürger urban middle class in a society that was overwhelmingly rural and peasant. Secondly, she had the audacity consistently, and vocally, to defy authority. And finally, but most importantly by the standards that early modern historians, there is actually a fairly large record of what she did and what historian Steven Ozment argues was the consuming passion of her life: undoing the wrong done to her by her father disinheriting her in 1527. Through Ozment's interweaving of the social, political, and legal minefield which Anna was forced to navigate in her attempt to redress the wrong done to her by her father--an extremely interesting man in his own write--after he found a cache of love letters she both wrote and received. The reader is also given a bird's eye view into the workings of a fairly typical German town during the renaissance, Swabian Hall, and how its residents felt about the operation of the legal system in her regards. This is micro-history at its best.

Anna Büschler should have been able to enjoy as comfortable a life as a middle class woman was able to have by sixteenth century standards by the time she was thirty years old. Instead, she found herself locked in her father's home, perpetually chained to a table leg. The chain of events that led her to this unhappy situation begins with interpretations of her past behavior. By her father's account, the legendary bürgermeister of Hall who had twenty years before brazenly petitioned the Holy Roman Emperor on behalf of the common people of Hall, the sexual relationships she had with a member of the local nobility and a mercenary were enough for him to label her as poisonous snake--imbued with the moral character of a whore. By her interpretation, she behaved as she did because her father had shirked his paternal duties and had not found a suitable suitor for her. After escaping from his clutches, Anna began a quarter century long fight to be compensated for the wrong he had done to her which would ultimately climax with the large cross section of Hall society which knew her interpreting her actions.

Ozment's brilliance lies in how he explains Anna's behaviors in the light of sixteenth century moral and legal norms. While Anna was cavorting with her lovers, she was also playing with fire hot enough to consume her completely, and thoroughly burn her father's reputation. By modern standards, and the standards of several centuries preceding the sixteenth, the punishments for premarital sex were draconian in their treatment of the people who engaged in it. Furthermore, the reputations, and often livelihoods, of parents who were exposed as having promiscuous children could be completely destroyed by their behavior. These facts go a long way in describing the extremity of Hermann Büschler's initial banishment of his daughter from his home and then a bold, brazen, and extralegal kidnapping of her after she began legal proceedings against her father. What it does not explain is why a man with such large reputation takes such an action when he certainly had a political future to think about. Ozment thankfully does not dwell on the possibility of incestuous behavior between the two of them because he can not marshal the evidence for any such argument, but it is a question that he nonetheless raises.

Throughout the narrative, Anna rightly comes of as rebellious, strong willed, and nonconformist in her behaviors. But, it is after she escapes from her father's imprisonment that the metal of her character becomes the most visible. She constantly and consistently fought against the marginalization which her disinheritance and her status as a woman imposed upon in every venue that she could gain a hearing in--even initially receiving a 5,000 gulden judgment against the city of Hall for its allowing her to be kept captive in her father's home under extremely suspect circumstances. Though this judgment would be overturned upon appeal and would have to spend the rest of her life fighting in the courts gain any of the money which she felt entitled to--and then only after she had found husbands who were willing to represent her and follow her through the murky recesses of 16th German law. Though only to a limited degree, Anna's story shows that women were not completely at the mercy of men during what is being increasingly regarded as one of the nadirs of women's status in the European history. As the court records which Ozment musters show though, Anna was not the only one, male or female, who questioned this status at least with regard to her.

A retelling of Anna's story to the degree which Ozment was capable would not have been possible were it not for the fact that dozens of her letters between her lovers and herself as well as the depositions from the legal proceedings she used had not survived to the present. In this respect, Ozment has a leg up on other early modern historians because of a relative cornucopia of evidence. Where the extremely good micro-historical biographies written by Natalie Z. Davis and Carlo Ginzburg ultimately have to invoke some very imaginative connections to close their works, Ozment simply does not. For that reason alone he deserves to be read.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Study of a Sixteenth-century ... Scandal, December 16, 2003
The Burgermeister's Daughter is a fascinating and highly readable study of a ... scandal that errupted in the German city of Schwabish Hall during the early years of the Reformation. The central figure, Anne Buschler, the daughter of a former Burgermeister and long-time city councilman, was a girl who liked to test the limits and would often have tongues wagging over her--for that day and age, at least--wild behaviour. It came to the point where she was having intimate relations with two guys, Erasmus of Limpurg and Daniel Treutwein. When this was discovered by her father, he disinherited her; but instead of allowing herself to be cast adrift in this manner, she fought back and thus ensued a protracted legal battle against her father, and, after his death, her siblings. In the end, we are presented with an extra-ordinary glimpse into the lives of (upper class) Germans during this era, German culture and society, the status of women, and the intricacies of the German legal system. It's a rare treat to find a book that is so meticulously researched but so readable. Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent source for 16th century Germany, October 25, 2003
Steven Ozment creates a book that is rich in research but also in storytelling. Ozment tells the story of Anna Buschler, the burgermeister of Hall's daughter and the scandal that erupted in this small sixteenth-century town. Ozment painstakingly recreates the small German town that Anna grew up in, we are introduced to her story through personal letters and court documents. His goal isn't to show that Anna was innocent of the crimes that were brought against her, but to show that the actions of her family and the courts were quite severe. Throughout the book we begin to understand the role of women, in particular daughters in sixteenth-century Germany.
This book was absolutely enchanting for every genre of reader, I am a graduate student and this proves invaluable for both research and entertainment!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very compelling read; I couldn't put it down., April 18, 2001
By 
Amazon Customer (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
Wow, I'm a little surprised at the negative reviews for this book. I picked it up at a conference over Easter weekend, and couldn't put it down. I found the historical and political contexts to add greatly to the personal drama. I thought the author left enough room for the reader to add his/her own interpretations -- I was left speculating on will in women being equated with madness and witchcraft.
I would -- and have -- recommend this book highly.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bergermeister's Daughter: Scandal in a Sixteenth Century, October 20, 2001
By 
"gunlar" (Trier, Germany) - See all my reviews
As a history student living in Germany I was greatly enthralled by this book. Ozment's understanding of the Medieval German society and its effects on its citizens is wonderful. I wholeheartedly recommend this book for anyone curious about this period in history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Girl Who Took On City Hall, March 26, 2013
That pun had to be used in the title of at least one review!
The whole book is about a girl/woman who ends up taking on the City of Hall's council. The story is very interesting on many levels, and for many different reasons. Using the back drop of a sexual/legal scandal from the 16th Century Germany, Ozment lets a person peer into the everyday life that served as a backdrop to the Reformation.

Anna, the daughter of the Burgermeister, "Mayor" of Hall, is hired on as a teenager in the Schenk home to be a servant girl, where she meets Erasmus Schenk, and begins to have an affair with him when they are both teen agers. As the both get older, the affair continues but spirals downward. Anna returns home to be house mistress for her father in the wake of her mother's death. She begins to have an affair with a Calvary man. Her father finds out and for various reasons spurns her. That's when the story gets interesting because he tries to disinherit her, and she fights back.
In the meantime, Ozment takes the time to patiently explain the legal and social ramifications or Anna's actions and those of her father's for that time. Other reviewers say he goes on tangents. They are wrong, what he does is gives you a wealth of back ground information to consider while formulating your opinions in the matter. And that is some incredibly insightful information.
That information welcomes a person to consider what exactly does constitute marriage, what responsibilities a parent might actually have towards his or her children and why. This information challenges assumptions as to what went into "arranging" a marriage. Really all this "side" information in regards to the story is purpose enough for a person to get the book. The story serves to show how all the dry information actually played out in real life. All of it greatly enriches a person's perspective on Reformation history.
It should be noted and this can be a bit confusing for a book that hits upon Reformation history. The Erasmus with which Anna has her affair is a different Erasmus than Erasmus von Rotterdam with whom Luther engaged in his polemical battle. And realizing that puts the book into perspective. Perhaps that is a given if one remembers the "Von Rotterdam." However, being as Erasmus isn't as common of a name, and when a scholar hears Erasmus he thinks of Von Rotterdam, a note of distinction in the book might prove helpful to the reader.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Look at a Real Life Drama in Old Germany, December 28, 2009
By 
This is a book by Steven Ozment.

We had a power failure recently, and I had to find something to do where there was power. Don't ask me why, but I visited a university bookstore, and I noticed this book was being used in a graduate history class. It looked really good, and I made a note of it. Soon after I got hold of a copy.

This book tells the story of Anna Buschler of the town of Hall in Germany in the early to mid 1500's. She was the burgermeister's daughter (hence the title) and a bit wild. She and her father had a falling out, and he threw her out and they ending up suing each other. Things got worse when he died - there was litigation over his will. Sort of like in Bleak House as things went on and on, but this time a true story. Like a car wreck, you have to look!! Really, it is an interesting story, and the author tells it within the greater historical and cultural context existing then.

I liked the book, but was a bit surprised that it got out of the publishers without better editing. Ambiguous language and small contradictions were common. The author is a Harvard professor - hmm?

Anyway, it is worth a read if this sort of things interests you.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable History of Germany and its law with a hardly sympathetic Heroine, May 29, 2014
One of the things I found interesting about this book were some of the blurbs plugging it. Particularly Elle magazine trumpeting what a great stand in feminism Anna was taking which told me after I finished the book that nobody at that fashion rag actually read the book.

While the entire premise of the book revolves around Anna's lawsuit against her family, the truly interesting bits are lifestyles of men and women in Germany in the 1600's and the laws and social mores that supported them.

In a nut shell, Anna's father was a miser and a bit of a crook, misappropriated his deceased wife's properties and didn't bother to make a decent match for his daughter. Anna in turn took a few pages from her father's book. Stole from him and a family she worked for when it suited her and carried on with two simultaneous sexual relationships without discretion. When she was found out her father put her out with just the clothes on her back. The Burgermeister's real vindictiveness, however, occurs when he is called out by the town council (in which he serves) and the local judicial courts on his foul play and this costs him his esteemed position.

This is where it really gets interesting to me. While the 1600's are heralded as the renaissance period and all the focus typically goes to Italy for all the fantastic art. But in Germany there was a spiritual and intellectual reform going on that makes Italy look like neanderthals. Thanks to the printing press, the wide distribution of Bibles and the spread in literacy ideas and debates where on the rise and in Germany this had a great effect on the church (Luther broke away from the Catholics and various strains of protestantism began.) and Germany's legal system, while still very much in line with the rest of Europe in that women where property and could not give representation on their own behalf, were in fact constantly finding loop holes and making almost every concession possible to go around this. A great deal of this was in part to simple logic based on Germany's social standards. Unlike the rest of Europe both men and women of every class was expected to work. Since every citizen was expected to develop a skill and trade than it only made since that the law should support the claims of an individual no matter what their gender was and since Germany also strived to avoid anyone becoming a ward of the state. Anna just happened to live in the exact right country to defend herself.

Anna, despite coming from a wealthy family had been farmed out at the age of 15 to the local noble family to learn how to be a housekeeper. When her mother died her father recalled her at the age of 20 to come home and be his housekeeper. This she did until she was 25. Therefore when her father turned her out and went out of his way to see that no friend or family member helped her he was, by law intentionally impeding her from a living. A serious no-no in German law.

What followed was a nasty fight that lasted until the end of both the Burgermeister and Anna's lives. While the Burgermeister was clearly a vain shyster who lost his temper and then tried to find ways to outwit the legal system that bordered on the criminal (kidnapping, enslavement, hiding funds.), I unfortunately found myself losing all sympathy for Anna. Mr. Ozment does a very good job of articulately presenting all sides of the argument (i.e. father, Anna, siblings and particularly the witnesses, legal representatives and the town council.) Because the legal system could be so readily used by Anna she was constantly reneging on deals struck in her favor. She was too much like her father in stubbornness and her inability to accept satisfaction of any kind left a woman who literally goes insane over time in seeking full on revenge and retribution.

While I enjoyed this story immensely, it was more for the history of Germany at this time and how socially, intellectually, spiritually and judicially advanced it was from other countries it was at this time. For sure, a woman had a much better place in society in Germany than in Italy or France at this time. And it was nice that a woman like Anna could get representation on her own. But as for Anna herself, hardly a feminist icon, her insanity and vindictiveness only showed how she was truly her father's daughter. I really felt sorry for all their legal representatives as they were definitely put upon by this awful family.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Burgermeister's Daughter, December 6, 1998
By A Customer
History comes alive when one reads the correspondence written between Anna Buschler and her lovers, Erasmus Schenk of Limpurg and Daniel Treutwien. Steven Ozment's interpretation of these letters is insightful, informative and gives the reader the feel of what life was in the 16th century Germany. Ozment carefully pieces together the letters that were saved to create a picture of history that may have gone unnoticed without this re-creation. The Burgermeister's Daughter is a documentation of the conflict in Anna Buschler's life from her late teens to her death in 1552. Anna was a courageous young woman who defies the social norms and with determination, chooses her own lifestyle against a society that attempted to dictate the behavior of its citizens. As a teenager, Anna fell in love with a nobleman. Nevertheless the society that they lived in had discouraged them to marry across social classes and she is immediately chastised by her father. However, when her father discovers that she also has an emotional attachment with another man at the same time, he becomes enraged and proceeds to dissociate Anna from her maternal inheritance. Anna is a strong-willed young woman, and will not bend even when her father obtains permission from the courts to chain her to a table for six months. This act serves as a catalyst to enrage Anna to spend the remainder of her life fighting with her father, her siblings and the Courts of Hall to regain her dignity and her maternal inheritance. The story continues to document her life through the correspondence she has with her lovers Erasumus and Daniel Treutwein, throughout the continual unsuccessful litigation to claim her inheritance, to her death in 1552. The author of The Burgermeister's Daughter,Steven Ozment is a Professor of History at Harvard University. He has written several books and historical articles, some of which are nationally recognized for their excellence. Ozment derives most of the facts that are included in this book from primary sources, letters and court records written during this historical period. Ozment was assisted in his writing of "The Burgermeister's Daughter" by several history scholars to assure that his sources were accurate and his interpretations justified. Ozment utilizes the letters that were saved to piece together this interpretation of life in a small German town in the 16th century. In addition, he draws upon his knowledge and extensive resources of historical records to reenact these dramatic events in Anna Buschler's life. In order to recreate this period of history, Ozment looks at the history of all the players in Anna's life, then pieces it together to make the story coherent. Anna's father, Herman Buschler was the Burgermeister in the city of Hall for five terms between 1508 and 1525; Ozment looks to city records to determine what type of leader this man was. To reenact the court trials, Ozment uses court records of the era to view the proceedings through primary sources. Ozment leaves little to speculation by carefully documenting his interpretations of what occurred to cause this conflict between Anna and her father Herman Buschler. Ozment uses the letters that were taken from Anna's possession and used at the litigation to paint a portrait of the relationships between Anna, Erasmus and Daniel Treutwein. This process appears to give us an insight into the relationships between Anna and Erasmus as well as between Anna and Daniel. A quandary does appear in the fact that the only surviving letters from Anna to Erasamus were rough drafts Anna had saved. Because the originals were not available, we cannot be positive that these are the words she conveyed to Erasamus. Ozment states that writing a rough draft was common practice in these times, yet she had saved no rough drafts of her correspondence to Daniel Treutwein and none of the originals had survived. Although most of his interpretation is convincing and logical, there are gaps in the correspondence that Ozment cannot document so he provides his own explanation to fill in these gaps. This leads one to wonder if these interpretations were provided to allow the story to continue, or to produce a more dramatic story. Ozment does allow the reader to know when he is speculating due to lack of documentation. This allows the reader to evaluate the event for him or herself and to determine if Ozment is on track with his observations. Despite these minor doubts, The Burgermeister's Daughter contains a generous background on the history of Hall and the events taking place in Europe during these tumultuous times. From questionable medical practices of bleeding a patient and chaining a mentally deranged patient to a table, to the peasant's revolt, these were the issues and attitudes of the times and Ozment includes them to illustrate this story. The historical facts that Ozment brings into this story are important because they allow the reader to experience the attitudes and the reasons for the attitudes of the characters in the story. Europe was a beehive of activity in the early 1500's. In 1517, Luther posted the "ninety-five theses". This began a change in the thinking of the Germanic population. The peasants envisioned a country that was free of social persecution. The story of Anna Buschler's begins in 1525, which coincides with the Peasant Rebellion (McKay, 449) that began when Luther's document was misinterpreted. There was unrest in the streets of Europe as well as in Anna Buschler's heart. This peasant rebellion was crushed by the nobility, but Anna remained rebellious and her spirit could not be crushed. A very ironic twist to this story shows us that one of Anna's lovers, Daniel Treutwin, was active in crushing this revolt. As a member of the military, he was one of the men responsible to put an end to the peasant revolt. From reading this dramatic portrayal of Anna Buschler's trials and tribulations one can also get a better grasp on the history that was unfolding around the story. This story is of interest to readers who hold and interest in the pandemonium of the 16th century, and to readers who enjoy a story of a dysfunctional family. Ozment's depiction is both enlightening and entertaining and highly recommended to all that enjoy a good story and an accurate depiction of history.
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The Burgermeister's Daughter: Scandal in a Sixteenth-Century German Town
The Burgermeister's Daughter: Scandal in a Sixteenth-Century German Town by Steven E. Ozment (Paperback - February 27, 1997)
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