Paul Michael Kurtz is a cultural, intellectual, and religious historian of modern Europe, with further expertise in ancient Judaism and Semitic studies. His research centers on the history of science/humanities: specifically, the formation, transmission, and circulation of knowledge about the ancient world both in and between Europe and the Middle East from 1770 to 1930.
In his early work, Kurtz concentrated on historiography. Grounded in the history of biblical, classical, and oriental studies, it scrutinized the reception of antiquity, the shadow of Protestant theology, and the complexity of German Judaism in writings on the ancient past. Much of it examined the scholarly practices, the institutional settings, as well as the cultural, political, and religious ideas that shaped representations of early Judaism in the German Empire.
More recently, he has focused on metaphilology, exploring the science of texts. As part of this line of research, he is Principal Investigator of the ERC Starting Grant PhiSci: Philology as Science in 19th-Century Europe. Here, Kurtz investigates philology as the premier science of the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. Specifically, this 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, circulate, 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. Kurtz is pushing further in this direction with PhiQoS (Philology, Queen of Science: The Making of a Knowledge System in the 19th Century) , a project funded by a starting grant from the Ghent Special Research Fund.
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. His first monograph, on the historiography of ancient Israel in the German Empire, was published by Mohr Siebeck in 2018.
Over the years, Kurtz has captured over €3 million in research grants and fellowships. This generous support has come from, inter alia, 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.
At Ghent, Kurtz is Associate Research Professor in History of Science (since 2022). Alongside his principal appointment in the Department of History, he also works with the Department of Philosophy & Ethics and with the German Studies Section. In addition, Kurtz is a Guest Lecturer at the University of Groningen and Member of the Young Academy, part of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts.
Previously, he was a Research 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.