The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision By Henry Kamen

1651 words - 7 pages

The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision by Henry Kamen, was released in 1997 and is the third edition of the acclaimed book centered around the infamous tribunal. The years following the first publication saw increases in the quality of scholarship and an influx of research.  New historical interpretations subsequently began to demonstrate an enhanced insight, as works like Benzion Netanyahu’s The Origins of the Inquisition presented original perspectives. Kamen was consequentially compelled to reevaluate the evidence surrounding the Inquisition, ultimately causing him to divert from his previous conclusions and adopt a revisionist perspective exploring historical causation. The Spanish Inquisition has been repeatedly studied for many years, and the Tribunal instituted by the Catholic monarchy typically elicits negative characterizations as absolutist, oppressive, violent, invasive and intolerant. Kamen, however, aims to discover the true nature and significance of the Spanish Inquisition and shield the readers from any unknowledgeable stereotypes or misinformed notions. He investigates the ideological and social environment of the tribunal, as he attempts to determine whether the Spanish Inquisition was a product of its attendant society by additionally assessing its impact, functionality, organization and global reception. Events of the eighteenth and nineteenth century are disparately mentioned, as they proceed the more significant developments and undertakings that occurred towards earlier stages of the Inquisition. Kamen intermittently justifies and condones Inquisitional activity in an attempt to systematically eradicate popular misconceptions; he marginalizes the cruelty and power often accredited to the institution, and propagates an alternative understanding of the Spanish Inquisition as product of its contemporary society
Kamen begins The Spanish Inquisition by contextualizing the environment in Spain in the years leading up to the 14th century, providing context for the impending Inquisitional prosecution and observing the numerous changes that followed Described  as a “society of uneasy coexistence” (convivencia), frequent interactions between Muslim, Christian and Jewish parties briefly fostered an environment of mutual tolerance (Kamen, 1). Despite the larger scale theological friction and inequality, the different religious communities successfully managed to co-habituate villages; work alongside other ethnic groups; exchange ideas, languages, regional tendencies, and subsequently coexist in an unprecedented societal demonstration of multiculturalism.  However, the Muslim defeat to the Christian armies of Ferdinand and Isabella catalyzed a major shift in religious toleration and was followed by the the formation of the Spanish Inquisition and subsequent victimization of various religious classes.
Kamen attempts to broaden the conventional understanding by exploring the original purpose of the Inquisition and the nature...

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