Since the sixteenth century, the Spanish Inquisition has been synonymous with terror, bigotry, and persecution. In this book, a renowned historian sweeps away old misconceptions and presents a new view of this notorious and fascinating period.
Henry Kamen reassesses the significance and consequences of the expulsion of the Jews and also argues that there is little evidence for the alleged Jewishness of the conversos who were the Inquisition's first victims. He presents a major revision of the impact of blood purity prejudices on Spanish society, revises the figures given for execution of heretics by the tribunal, and examines the amount of Spanish persecution in the context of executions in neighboring countries. He gives a completely new picture of the infamous censorship system, showing it to be much less effective than is often presented, and he investigates the role played by foreign propaganda in the creation of the diabolic image of the Inquisition. Kamen reconstructs the atmosphere of fear and oppression that typified the period, relating it to the fear generated by community tensions. He also demonstrates for the first time that the famous auto-da-fe was not a product of traditional Spanish piety but a deliberate tool of the inquisitors, invented in the sixteenth century in order to boost their political standing.
Thirty-five years ago Kamen wrote a study of the Inquisition that received high praise. This present work, based on over thirty years of new research, is not simply a complete revision of the earlier book. Innovative in its presentation, point of view, information, and themes, it will revolutionize further study in the field.
"An excellent, up-to-date overview ofthe Spanish Inquisition. It is certainly the best book on the subject currently available in English". -- Geoffrey Parker