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Why the Spanish Inquisition?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 March 2016

John Edwards
Affiliation:
University of Birmingham

Extract

It seems quite extraordinary that an important European country should apparently have wished to go down in history as the originator of calculated cruelty and violence against members of its civil population. Yet the writers of the famous sketches in Monty Python’s Flying Circus were far from being the first to introduce ‘the Spanish Inquisition’ as a cliché to represent arbitrary and yet calculated tyranny. By the late sixteenth century, Christian Europe, both Catholic and Protestant, had already formed the image of Spain which has become known as the ‘Black Legend’. Just as many Spaniards distrusted Italy, because Jews lived freely there, and France because Protestants were in a similar condition in that country, so Italian opposition to the forces of Ferdinand the Catholic and his successors, together with the ultimately successful Dutch rebels, created, with the help of growing knowledge of Spain’s atrocities against the inhabitants of the New World, a counter-myth, in which the Spaniards themselves appeared as heardess oppressors, but also, ironically, as crypto-Jews (marranos). Erasmus wrote that France was ‘the most spotless and most flourishing part of Christendom’, since it was ‘not infected with heretics, with Bohemian schismatics, with Jews, with half-Jewish marranos’, the last term clearly referring to Spain. Not surprisingly, there is also a Jewish story of what happened in Spain before, during, and after 1492, which may best be summed up, in general outline, in the words, written in 1877, of Frederic David Mocatta’s study of Iberian Jews and the Inquisition.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Ecclesiastical History Society 1992

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References

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14 Lea, Henry Charles, A History of the Inquisition in Spain, 4 vols (New York, 1906-7 Google Scholar). Notable examples of modern work are Jaime Contreras, El Santo Officio de la Inquisición de Galicia, 1560-1700 (Madrid, 1982); Ricardo García Cárcel, Orígenes de la Inquisición Española (Barcelona, 1976), and Herejía y Sociedad en el Siglo XVI (Barcelona, 1980); Jean-Pierre Dedieu, L’Administration de la foi. L’Inquisition de Tolède (XVIe-XVIIIe siècle) (Madrid, 1989); Gustav Henningsen, The Witches’ Advocate: Basque Witchcraft and the Spanish Inquisition (Reno, 1980); Kamen, Inquisition and Society; Haliczer, Inquisition and Society; Beinart, Haim, Conversos on Trial: the Inquisition of Ciudad Real (Jerusalem, 1981 Google Scholar).

15 For examples of Jewish belief and practice, see the above works and also John Edwards, ‘Religious faith and doubt in late medieval Spain: Soria circa 1450–1500’, Pa P, 120 (1988), pp. 6-9. For the Inquisition’s use of Jewish testimony, see John Edwards, ‘Jewish testimony to the Spanish Inquisition: Teruel, 1484-7’, RE], 143 (1984), pp. 333-50.

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17 Ibid., pp. 11-25.

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36 Edwards, , ‘Religious faith and doubt’, pp. 1325 Google Scholar; ‘Debate: religious faith, doubt and atheism, a reply to C. John Sommerville’, PaP, 128 (1990), pp. 15 5-61; and ‘Trial of an inquisitor: the dismissal of Diego Rodriguez Lucero, inquisitor of Córdoba, in 1508’, JEH, 37 (1986), pp. 240-57.

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43 Fernández, Suárez, ed., Documentos, pp. 3923 Google Scholar; Edwards, John, ‘Jews and conversos in the region of Soria and Almazán: departures and returns’, Pe’amim (Jerusalem), forthcoming (in Hebrew).Google Scholar

44 Beinart, Haim, ‘La Inquisición española y la expulsión de los judios de Andalucía’, in Andalucía y sus Judíos (Córdoba, 1986), pp. 5181 Google Scholar; Kamen, , ‘The Mediterranean’, p. 52 Google Scholar; Harvey, L. P., Islamic Spain, 1250 to 1500 (Chicago and London, 1900), p. 321.Google Scholar

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47 Dedieu, , L’Administration de la foi, p. 337.Google Scholar

48 V. S. Pritchett, interview in The Sunday Times, 10 July 1988.

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