The Portuguese Inquisition is often portrayed as a tyrannical institution that imposed itself on an impotent society. Drawing on extensive archival research, the book challenges this myth by arguing that the Inquisition was integral to colonial society, reinforcing European social and... religious values that were recreated in colonial Brazil. 3 Maps; 6 Halftones, black and white; 7 Illustrations, black and white
The Portuguese Inquisition is often portrayed as a tyrannical institution that imposed itself on an unsuspecting and impotent society. The men who ran it are depicted as unprincipled bandits and ruthless spies who gleefully dragged their neighbors away to rot in dark, pestilential prisons. In this new study, based on extensive archival research, James E. Wadsworth challenges these myths by focusing on the lay and clerical officials who staffed the Inquisition in colonial Pernambuco, one of Brazil's oldest, wealthiest, and most populated colonies. He argues that the Inquisition was an integral part of colonial society and that it reflected and reinforced deeply held social and religious values that crossed the Atlantic, recreated themselves in colonial Brazil, and became powerful tools for exclusion and promotion in Brazilian society. The Inquisition successfully appropriated widely held social norms and manipulated social tensions to create and recreate its own power and prestige for almost three hundred years. It finally declined only when its capacity to socially promote its officials diminished in the late eighteenth century.Agents of Orthodoxy places the men who ran the Inquisition in historical context and demonstrates that they were often motivated by social aspirations in seeking inquisitional appointments. Beautifully written and extensively researched, this book sheds new light on a long-standing institution and its participants.
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