Loserth, Johann (1846-1936)

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Johann Loserth, Austrian historian, was born 1 September 1846, at Fulnek in Moravia, where his ancestors had fled as refugees from Silesia in the 17th century. They were weavers. Since machinery encroached upon their industry, his father opened a cereal business, the proceeds of which, however, did not cover the expenses of long illness in the family. Under such circumstances there could be no thought of university training for the six sons.

Johann was then to learn cabinet making. A kindly relative made it possible for him to attend the gymnasium in Troppau and Kremsier. Because of inadequate support these were years of bitter privation. By private teaching he earned the necessary money for study. In the autumn of 1866 he went to the University of Vienna. The professors to whom he owed most were Ottokar Lorenz and Theodor Sickel; the latter admitted him in 1869 into the Institute for Research in Austrian History. After the completion of his study he taught at a Realgymnasium in Vienna. He received his doctor's degree at Tübingen (1871), and later also in Vienna (1874) for his work on the sources for the history of Kremsmünster. This publication led to a scholarly dispute with the famed historian Georg Waitz, which ended in victory for Loserth.

In 1875 Loserth was called as professor to the newly founded University of Czernowitz in Bukowina. In 1893 he was called to the University of Graz, Austria, and in 1917 he retired. In 1896 he became a member of the Academy of Vienna. He continued his writing with studies on the sources of Königsaal history, which led him into research on Cosmas of Prague and other old Bohemian sources. In this connection he published a series of critical works on the older history of Bohemia. His studies on the spiritual roots of Hussite doctrine were determinative. As a fruit of this research he published the book Huss und Wiclif (1884, second edition 1925), which proves the complete independence of the Hussite doctrines from Wycliffe's writings. These studies brought Loserth into contact with the Wycliffe Society, which began the publication of Wycliffe's Latin works in 1883. Of the 40 volumes which were published by 1922, 14, all of them first editions, were edited by Loserth. These publications are all accompanied by many critical individual inquiries, most of which were published in the writings of the Vienna Academy.

Studies in Moravian archives directed Loserth's attention to the Anabaptists, who had spread over Nikolsburg, southern Moravia, and Austria, and had carried on a live correspondence with their brethren in neighboring countries. These studies brought Loserth into connections with Joseph von Beck, whose literary legacy he took over and completed with additional archival work. Works on the history of Anabaptism in Moravia, Lower Austria, Styria, Salzburg, Tyrol, and Switzerland followed; and also a biography of Balthasar Hubmaier, and biographical sketches of Georg Blaurock, Pilgram Marpeck, and others. At an advanced age Loserth published other important works on the history of the Anabaptist movement. Among them was Pilgram Marbeck's Verantwortung (1929), a book replying to Schwenckfeld.

What Loserth discovered on the history of Anabaptism in Styria was also significant. It was shown that there were not only isolated Anabaptists there, as had previously been supposed, but that until 1530 the country was literally flooded with them. This information we owe to Dingauer, a Jesuit who was an official and father confessor in the Dietrichstein family and wrote a history of the house of Dietrichstein. He used the archives of Sigmund von Dietrichstein, who was for his part not a severe opponent of the Anabaptists, but incurred the reproach of Ferdinand for his lenience.

Finally Loserth uncovered a very valuable source on the decline of the Anabaptists in Moravia and Hungary and their restoration by the Carinthian emigrants, who were expelled to Transylvania in 1755, there became acquainted with the last remnants of the Hutterites, and finally accepted their teaching. Since they could not remain in Transylvania, they migrated to Wallachia and then to Russia; in the middle of the 19th century they went to North America (see Kuhr, Joseph).

Loserth's call to Graz opened further fields of study in the history of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation in Inner Austria with sources and thorough treatment. This resulted in inspiration for other historical studies of the country, of history of the noble families, of economics, and of Austrian history in general. His familiarity with the intellectual currents of the 13th and 14th centuries qualified him to write the history of the late Middle Ages for the Handbuch der mittelalterlichen und neueren Geschichte von Below-Meinecke.

Loserth died in Graz on 30 August 1936, two days before the completion of his ninetieth year.

In the Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereins für Steiermark, vol. XXII (1926) appeared: W. Erben and A. Kern, "Johann Loserth als Geschichtsforscher. Eine Uebersicht seiner wissenschaftlichen Werke." The table of contents lists 286 articles, omitting book reviews and articles in current papers; for the history of Bohemia 65 titles, for the Wycliffite and Hussite movements 63 titles, for the history of the Anabaptists 25 titles, for the history of the Reformation and Counter Reformation in Austria and adjacent countries 68 titles, miscellaneous 62 titles.

For the history of the Anabaptists the following should be named: "Zur Geschichte der Wiedertäufer in Mähren, in Zeitschrift für allgemeine Geschichte, Kultur-, Literatur- und Kunstgeschichte I (1884) 438-457; "Die Stadt Waldshut und die vorderösterreichische Regierung in den Jahren 1523-26," in Archiv für osterreichischer Geschichte LXXVII (Vienna, 1891); "Deutschböhmische Wiedertäufer," in Mitteilungen der Vereins für Geschichte der Deutschen in Böhmen XXX (1892); "Der Anabaptismus in Tirol von seinen Anfängen bis zum Tode Jakob Huters (1526-36). Aus den hinterlassenen Papieren des Josef R. von Beck," in Archiv für österreichische Geschichte LVIII (1892);  "Der Anabaptismus in Tirol vom Jahre 1536 bis zu seinem Erlöschen," loc. cit. LXXIX (1893); Doctor Balthasar Hubmaier und die Anfänge der Wiedertaufe in Mähren (Brno, 1893) VIII, 217; "Wiedertäufer in Steiermark," in Mitteilungen der Hististorischen Verein für Steiermark XLII (1894) 118-45; "Der Kommunismus der Huterischen Brüder in Mähren im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert," in Zeitschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte III (1895) 61-92; "Der Communismus der mährischen Wiedertäufer im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert. Beiträge zu ihrer Geschichte, Lehre und Verfassung," in Archiv für österrreichische Geschichte LXXXI (1895) 135-322; "Die Wiedertaufe in Niederösterreich von ihren Anfängen bis zum Tode Balthasar Hubmaiers, 1525-28," in Blätter des Verein für Landeskunde von Niederösterreich XXXIII (1899) 417-435; "Georg Blaurock und die Anfänge des Anabaptismus in Graubünden und Tirol," in Vorträge und Aufsätze aus der Comenius-Gesellschaft VII (1899); "Zur Geschichte der Wiedertäufer in Steiermark," in Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins für Steiermark I (1903) 177 ff. and Zeitschriftt des Historische Vereins für Steiermark X (1912) 267 ff.; "Zur Geschichte der Wiedertäufer in Salzburg," in Mitteilungen des Gesellschaft für Salzburger Landeskunde LII (1912) 35-60; "Studien zu Pilgram Marbeck," in Gedenkschrift zum 400-jährigen Jubiläum der Mennoniten oder Taufgesinnten, 1525 bis 1925, 134-178; Pilgram Marbecks Antwort auf Kaspar Schwenkfelds Beurteilung des Buches der Bundesbezeugung von 1542, Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte der Oberdeutschen Taufgesinnten im 16. Jahrhundert, J. Loserth, ed. (Vienna and Leipzig, 1929) XII, 592 pp. In the Mennonitisches Lexicon he published over 100 articles, which also appear in the Mennonite Encyclopedia.

See also Akten und Korrespondenzen zur Geschichte der Gegenreformation in Innerösterreich unter Erzherzog Karl II. und Ferdinand II. (Vienna, 1898-1907)  (Font. rer Austr., 2. Abt, vols. 50, 58, 60); Die Reformation und Gegenreformation in den innerösterreichische Ländern im 16. ]ahrhundert..Stuttgart, 1898: VIII, 614 pp.


Dedic, Paul. "Johann Loserth zum Gedachtnis." Der Saemann: No. 10.

Hege, Christian. "Johann Loserth." Mennonitische Geschichtsblätter (1936): I, 36-40. 

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 692-694.

Uhlirz, M.  "Johann Loserth zum 80. Geburtstage, 1. Sept. 1926." Zeitschrift des deutschen Vereins für die Geschichte Mährens und Schlesiens 28 (1926): 1-8.

Volker, Karl. "Der Historiker des innerösterreichischen Protestantismus." Christliche Welt (1936): No. 16.

Author(s) Anton Kern
Date Published 1957

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MLA style

Kern, Anton. "Loserth, Johann (1846-1936)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 30 Sep 2023. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Loserth,_Johann_(1846-1936)&oldid=145713.

APA style

Kern, Anton. (1957). Loserth, Johann (1846-1936). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 30 September 2023, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Loserth,_Johann_(1846-1936)&oldid=145713.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 397-399. All rights reserved.

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