Stobbe, Otto°

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STOBBE, OTTO ° (1831–1887), German legal historian. Stobbe was a professor at the universities of Koenigsberg, Breslau, and Leipzig. His book on the legal, social, and economic conditions of medieval German Jewry, Die Juden in Deutschland waehrend des Mittelalters in politischer, sozialer und rechtlicher Beziehung (1886, repr. 1902, 1923), republished in 1969, prefaced by Guido *Kisch, is considered both a pioneer work and a classic. It received unanimous acclaim among Jewish scholars, who accepted its authority unquestioningly, as did nearly all contemporary legal and economic historians and latter-day sociologists. His influence can be discerned particularly in Max Weber. Stobbe influenced the historiography of medieval German Jewry to a very large extent. The importance of his work is in its definition of the status of Jewish serfdom as comparable to that of ministerialis and vassals and in his utilization of the records of medieval civic court proceedings and other archival material concerning Jews. In many respects Stobbe, nevertheless, transmitted the bias inherent in semi-scholarly general and historical works on the Jews of the 18th and early 19th centuries and gave it new currency. Many earlier errors were reintroduced. In depicting the Jews as the only merchants before the Crusades, Stobbe strengthened the image of the Jews as a commercial people. Proceeding from a misunderstanding of the canonic usury prohibition as prohibiting all credit dealings and ignoring the history of credit dealings among Christians, he vastly exaggerated the role of the Jews as moneylenders, while ignoring or minimizing evidence on landed properties held by them.

After Stobbe's work, many collections of medieval sources published by German regional commissions and individual cities, as well as improved texts of lawbooks, along with progress in solid Jewish scholarship on the history of medieval German Jewry, have helped to correct and supersede Stobbe's views. While a professor at Breslau University (1859–71), Stobbe was in close contact with H. *Graetz. In 1886 he joined the Commission on Research on the History of German Jewry and contributed an article on the privileges granted the Jews of Speyer and Worms (1084 and 1090) by the Holy Roman Emperor Henry iv, for the first volume of the commission's journal, Zeitschrift fuer die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland (1887). His other works were in the field of general legal history.


K. Maurer, in: Kritische Vierteljahrschrift fuer Gesetzgebung und Rechtswissenchaft, 9 (1867), 564–81; H. Bresslau, in: zgjd, 2 (1888), 105–8; E. Landsberg, in: adb, 36 (1893), 262–6; G. Kisch, in: Forschungen zur Rechts-und Sozialgeschichte der Juden in Deutschland waehrend des Mittelalters (1955), 199–210, with bibl.; T. Oelsner, in: ylbi, 7 (1962), 188ff.; idem, in: yivoa, 12 (1958/59), esp. 176–95; Baron, Social, 11 (1967), 8; idem, in: Essays and Studies… Abraham A. Neuman (1969), 46.

[Toni Oelsner]