Paul Michael Kurtz is a cultural, intellectual, and religious historian of modern Europe, with further expertise in ancient Judaism and Semitic studies. His work centers on the history of science/humanities: specifically, the formation and circulation of knowledge about the ancient world both in and between Europe, the Middle East, and India from 1770 to 1930.
In his early work, Kurtz concentrated on historiography. Grounded in the history of biblical, classical, and oriental studies, it examined the reception of antiquity, the shadow of Protestant theology, and the complexity of Judaism in modern writings on the ancient world. Much of it considered the scholarly practices, the institutional settings, and the political as well as religious ideals that shaped representations of early Judaism in the German Empire.
More recently, he has focused on metaphilology, exploring the science of texts. Here, Kurtz investigates philology as the premier science of the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. His work analyzes philology as an integrated system of knowledge-production: a scientific network made up of humans and objects, practices and ideas, infrastructure and technology. It studies how they worked together to collect and analyze cultural artifacts. His approach expands traditional work on the history of the humanities by combining an understanding of global and colonial history, media theory, informatics, and history of science. With this line of research, Kurtz is Principal Investigator of the ERC Starting Grant PhiSci: Philology as Science in 19th-Century Europe.
His publications appear in journals of history, religion, and culture, such as History & Theory, Critical Inquiry, Central European History, and Harvard Theological Review , as well as reference works like the New Cambridge Companion to Biblical Interpretation and Oxford History of Modern German Theology. Kurtz's first monograph, on the historiography of ancient Israel in the German Empire, was published by Mohr Siebeck in 2018. His second, focused on one of the last Jews to receive a PhD in Nazi Germany, is forthcoming with Penn State University Press.
Over the years, Kurtz has captured over €3 million in research funding. Such support has come from the European Research Council, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, German Academic Exchange Service, Flemish Research Council, Fulbright Program, American Schools of Oriental Research, and Ghent Special Research Fund, among others.
At Ghent, Kurtz is Associate Research Professor in History of Science ('BOF-ZAP', since 2022). Alongside his principal appointment in the Department of History, he works with the Department of Philosophy & Ethics and the German Studies Section. Kurtz is also a Member of the Young Academy of Belgium and a Guest Lecturer at the University of Groningen.
Previously, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Flemish Research Council at Ghent (2019–22), Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Cambridge and Queens’ College (2017–19), and Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Göttingen (2016–17). In 2016, Kurtz earned a Dr. phil. in History at Göttingen, summa cum laude, where he first began as a Fulbright Scholar. During doctoral studies, he also held fellowships at the University of Chicago, Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, and Max Weber Centre for Advanced Studies in Erfurt.
Nice and tidy as it may seem, this streamlined biography obscures many dark nights of academic precarity. It also omits the initial rejection of numerous articles and grant proposals.