Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Inquisitorial Inquiries: Brief Lives of Secret Jews & Other Heretics

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Inquisitorial Inquiries: Brief Lives of Secret Jews & Other Heretics

Article excerpt

Early Modern European Inquisitorial Inquiries: Brief Lives of Secret Jews & Other Heretics. Edited and translated by Richard L. Kagan and Abigail Dyer. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2004. Pp. xiv, 199. $48.00 hardcover; $19.95 paperback.)

This appears to be a minor work by a major-and prolific-talent. Richard Kagan is a master of many Spanish archives, including those of the Holy Office. Assisted by a junior scholar (whose exact role is never explained), Kagan has assembled a half-dozen quasi-autobiographical texts, mostly discursos de su vida, all elicited under varying levels of coercion by the Spanish Inquisition and delivered with even greater variations in candor. These six narratives are here presented in English translations, accompanied by solid commentary, notes, and useful maps.

Kagan's reasons for selecting exactly these particular inquisitorial "autobiographies" seem idiosyncratic. He presents them in simple chronological order, from the early sixteenth century to the mid-seventeenth. However, two kinds of clusters emerge. Although they range geographically from Madrid to Mexico City, four of these cases were heard at the tribunal of Toledo, with one each at Cuenca and Mexico City. As the book's subtitle suggests, three prisoners had Jewish ancestors. Another was an "old" Morisco from New Castile, whose ancestors had become Christian before 1500. Another was a soldier of impeccable "Old Christian" ancestry who developed a gift for politically-disruptive prophecy and had to be silenced. The oddest prisoner was born in Valencia to a Moslem slave and a Christian father, but her troubles with the Holy Office owed nothing to this religious miscegenation. Instead, she was a clever and ambitious hermaphrodite; briefly and unhappily married to a man, she later passed as a man, becoming a licensed surgeon and ultimately marrying a young woman in a village near Toledo. …

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