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The Spanish Inquisition: A History by Joseph…

The Spanish Inquisition: A History

by Joseph Perez

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I didn't know a lot about the Spanish Inquisition before reading this fairly comprehensive but also short (221 pages) account. Pérez gives plenty of detail on how it operated, as a powerful and brutal autnomous judicial system within the Spanish state, from 1480 to 1834 (admittedly rather gutted of its authority in its final decades). Several interesting points that arose for me:

1) Though run by Church officials, the Inquisition was more an arm of Madrid than of Rome; the Spanish king and government exercised control over it as far as anyone did. Though it was set up to extirpate heresy, this was heresy treated as a crime against the civil order.

2) The context of 1480 was that of the final victory of Christian rulers over Muslims in Spain, which of course could not be known to be final at the time; Pérez seems to consider that a fair amount of the Inquisition's persecution of backsliding converts from Islam or Judaism was a response to a real phenomenon rather than a witch-hunt of imaginary foes.

3) Speaking of which, the Inquisition rarely took charges of witchcraft per se seriously and tended to acquit accused witches brought before it.

4) Having said that, the Inquisition was far more brutal and violent than other judicial mechanisms dealing with religious difference, even in a bloodthirsty and bigoted period of history.

Two things would have helped me to appreciate the book more. The first, which is more my fault than Pérez', is that I have very little knowledge of Spanish history, and cannot really relate to any of its monarchs after Ferdinand and Isabella, Charles V and Philip II, so rather than fitting the narrative from 1600 to 1800 into a framework that I already knew, I was trying to reconstruct the historical background from the intense details given by Pérez. The second is that, although Pérez does reflect a bit on the comparative dimension, we could have done with more of it; apologists mutter that even Calvin's Geneva burned Servetus (who had of course escaped the Spanish Inquisition himself), but to me the interesting question is, how come nothing like the Spanish inquisition developed in other Catholic countries, most notably in the Papal states?

I did have one laugh-out-loud moment, when zealots complained that the public reading of the edict of faith, which described heretical practices in some detail, was actually disseminating knowledge of the practices it was supposed to condemn. I doubt if it made much difference; I shouldn't think anyone was really listening.

Anyway, a cheap remainder purchase a couple of years ago which justified the £2 it cost me. ( )
  nwhyte | Jun 26, 2011 |
I had been reading the Captain Alatriste series by Arturo Perez-Reverte and I became interested in the Spanish Inquisition. I just picked up a book from Borders that looked like the kind of information I was looking for. It was the correct information written in the most dry uninteresting way possible. I really felt like I was reading a thesis. How dry was it? It took 5 days to read this 225 page book. Boring! ( )
  jmaloney17 | Aug 20, 2009 |
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Original (2002) title: Brève Histoire de L'Inquisition en Espagne
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0300119828, Paperback)

This is the story of 350 years of terror. Established by papal bull in 1478, the first task of the Spanish Inquisition was to question Jewish converts to Christianity and to expose and execute those found guilty of reversion. Authorities then turned on Spanish Jews in general, sending 300,000 into exile. Next in line were humanists and Lutherans. No rank was exempt. Children informed on their parents, merchants on their rivals, and priests upon their bishops. Those denounced were guilty unless they could prove their innocence. Nearly 32,000 people were publicly burned at the stake; the “fortunate” ones were flogged, fined, or imprisoned.
Joseph Pérez tells the history of the Spanish Inquisition from its medieval beginnings to its nineteenth-century ending. He discovers its origins in fear and jealousy and its longevity in usefulness to the state. He explores the inner workings of its councils, and shows how its officers, inquisitors, and leaders lived and worked. He describes its techniques of interrogation and torture, and shows how it refined displays of punishment as instruments of social control. The author ends his fascinating account by assessing the impact of the Inquisition over three and a half centuries on Spain’s culture, economy, and intellectual life.

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"Generation Extra Large reveals the startling truth about the obesity epidemic, and uncovers the cultural and economic causes of childhood obesity. Cash-strapped schools have opened their doors to fast food and soda companies. Many schools are cutting physical education - and even recess - in a misguided attempt to save money and boost standardized test scores. At the same time, the authors report, food and soda lobbies are shaping government policy at our children's expense. At home, traditional family meals have grown rare, and fast food is filling the void. From city neighborhoods that are too dangerous for outside play to the sprawling suburbs where everyone drives everywhere, children face overwhelming obstacles on their path to good health.".… (more)

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Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300107900, 0300119828

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