“Ministers of Persecution”: Torture, Capital Punishment, and the Study of the Spanish Inquisition

Thursday, January 2, 2014: 3:30 PM
Columbia Hall 1 (Washington Hilton)
Kimberly Lynn, Western Washington University
The Spanish Inquisition has long been virtually synonymous with persecution, with abuse of the law, torture, elaborate public autos de fe, and the burning of people and books. This paper explores, first, how these associations were reinforced and further developed during the nineteenth century. To do so, it surveys some of the visions of the Spanish Inquisition that appeared in writings and images produced in Europe and in the Americas, considering the extent to which torture and executions were central to those representations. Second, the paper examines how those nineteenth-century images shaped later historiography. It considers how they have colored study of the Spanish Inquisition as an institution, its place in early modern Spanish society, and its officials, among them the inquisitors termed "ministers of persecution" in Juan Antonio Llorente's early nineteenth-century critical history. It analyzes how the mythic quality of the Spanish Inquisition has dominated the investigation of subjects like the use of torture and capital punishment in early modern Spain, particularly in Anglophone scholarship. Thus the paper closes with a consideration of how representations of the Spanish Inquisition have drawn attention away from other early modern courts of law and from the relationships between different kinds of early modern institutions of justice and their practices.
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