Books by David I. Kertzer

Kertzer is the Paul Dupee University Professor of Social Science at Brown University, where he is also professor of anthropology and Italian studies. His Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1997, and he has twice re

Released: April 24, 2018

"A touch too long but a pleasingly encompassing view of the hapless papal reign that inspired Kertzer's early book The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortaro (1997)."
A bulky but readable history of the last leader of the Papal States. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2014

"Kertzer is unflinching and relentless in his exposure of the Vatican's shocking actions."
More deeply troubling revelations around Vatican collaboration with evil. Read full book review >
Released: March 6, 2008

"Microhistorian Kertzer extracts every known fact to illuminate this sad case as a footnote to Italy's wider social history."
History of a medical-malpractice lawsuit in Italy during the last decade of the 19th century. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 15, 2004

"An insightful airing of dirty cassocks within papal politics, from a masterful, controversial scholar."
Contrary to the history books, the Middle Ages didn't end with the Renaissance in Italy. They lasted until September 20, 1870, when "Europe's last theocratic government was ended." Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 24, 2001

"On firmer ground than John Cornwell's error-plagued Hitler's Pope, and far better written, Kertzer's study is nonetheless likely to be challenged."
A careful examination of the role of the Catholic Church in persecution, pogroms, and, eventually, the Holocaust. Read full book review >
Released: May 18, 1997

A dramatic and heart-wrenching tale that reveals a great deal about the battle between conservative and progressive forces in mid-19th-century Europe. Kertzer (History/Brown Univ.), the author of the ground-breaking work Sacrificed for Honor: Infant Abandonment and the Politics of Reproductive Control (not reviewed), turns his attention to a smaller but no less poignant story. In 1858, authorities of the Papal States in Bologna abducted the Jewish child Edgardo Mortara from his family. Reports had reached the Inquisition in Rome that when Edgardo was an infant he had been secretly baptized by the Mortaras' Catholic servant girl. The law of the Papal States was very clear: A Christian child was forbidden to be brought up in a Jewish household. Liberal circles in Europe were outraged and mobilized. Kertzer skillfully weaves the larger historical, social, religious, and cultural forces at work into the story, without allowing these elements to overwhelm his protagonists. Although cases of children being abducted by the Church and forced to convert were not unusual, the timing of the Mortara case could not have been worse for the pope. Pius IX was- -upon his election to the Chair of St. Peter—considered a liberal who might lend his temporal and spiritual power to the movement for Italian national unification. He was soon caught between the implacable forces of modernism and the Church's obstinate refusal to enter the modern world. Kertzer's challenging thesis is that the Mortara case became the catalyst for the end of papal power in Italy. Anticlerics in Italy, Protestants and Jews in Britain and America, even Napoleon III (staunch defender of papal power) joined in criticizing the abduction. Arrayed against these groups was the dark power of the Inquisition and the pope's obsessive desire to maintain his temporal power at the expense of a united Italy. A moving, dramatic study of the clash between the sacred and the secular. Read full book review >