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Inquisition: The Reign of Fear Hardcover – Unabridged, 15 Jun 2007

4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; 1 edition (15 Jun. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405088737
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405088732
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 23.4 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 939,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

Everybody has heard of the Inquisition. This was an institution that pursued heretics, philandering priests and sexual deviants in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America for a period of over 350 years, changing its focus with the times and enduring stubbornly into the 19th century. Today the word implies dread, fear and a withheld threat of torture. But who were its targets? Why did it provoke such fear? How and where did it operate? Why was it founded, and why did it last for so long? Toby Green’s incredible new book brings an extraordinary 350 year period vividly to life by focusing on the hitherto untold stories of individuals from all walks of life and every section of society. Because the Inquisition touched every aspect of society, it changed the world: people attending church had to look suitably devout, or they might be denounced; a curse at a game of cards, thrown out in the heat of the moment, could bring an investigation; stripping fat from a leg of lamb was enough to excite accusations of being a Jew. A secret police and a thought police, the Inquisition produced a permanent state of fear. This history, though filled with stories of terror and the unspeakable ways in which human beings can treat one another, is also one of hope and ultimately of the resilience of the human spirit. Instead of being cowed by their fear, countless people rebelled in small and big ways, paving the way for a more inclusive society. The story of the Inquisition is not, then, one to be hidden and avoided; it deserves to be told in all its human richness and complexity.

About the Author

Toby Green is the author of three previous books and his work has been translated into six languages. He has travelled widely in Africa and Latin America, and now lives with his wife and daughter in the West Country.


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Format: Paperback
Toby Green, a fluent Spanish speaker, has immersed himself in the voluminous records of the Inquisition. He has applied both psychology and humane common sense in attempting to understand the motivations of those involved. He does not dwell excessively on the details of torture, but focuses on how the fear of torture facilitated control over ever aspect of life. Since Spain was the "superpower" of its day, and Spain and Portugal were the first European empires, the power of the "Spanish Inquisition" extended over five continents.

Green describes how over the three centuries of its existence, the Inquisition persecuted, tormented, humiliated, tortured and killed Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Pagans, Protestants, Freemasons, homosexuals, witches, rape victims of both sexes, free-thinkers of all kinds, and anyone whose thinking, behaviour, or achievements deviated in the slightest detail from the norm.

His analysis shows however that above all else they persecuted devout Roman Catholics- members of the very Church that they purported to protect. Thus even on its own terms, the Inquisition was utterly counterproductive, creating the very enemies that it purported to be suppressing. Their meticulous records record that their victims often begged their interrogators to tell them what they should confess to, so as to terminate their torture. Some even learned Jewish prayers so they could incriminate themselves more plausibly. During period eruptions of rebellion, Spanish peasants would declare themselves to be indeed Muslims or Jews, even though by now they had lost almost all knowledge of these religions.
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The idea that the Spanish Inquisition was a uniquely evil institution looks increasingly shaky. It now seems clear, for example, that many more people were killed in the witch-hunts of northern Europe than died as a result of the operations of the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal. (The Inquisition, while admitting the theoretical possibility of witches, was commendably sceptical about the idea that witchcraft was widespread and prosecutions were rare.)

Indeed, reading Green's book I was struck not by the uniqueness of the Inquisition but by how many of its procedures have made a depressing resurgence in the last decade under the banner of the 'war of terror': arbitrary arrest; secret courts and secret evidence; indefinite detainment; even state torture. (The disgraceful contention of the Bush administration that water-boarding does not constitute torture is surely disproved by the fact that it was one of the three techniques most commonly applied by the Inquisition - the others being the rack and suspension).

The temptation of states to "work the dark side", in Dick Cheney's phrase, when faced with threats to social order is a perennial one. For this reason, the study of the Inquisition is more relevant than ever.

Moreover, the documentary evidence available to historians of the period has been transformed in the last thirty years with the opening of many Inquisitorial archives in Spain, Portugal and Rome. This is certainly a good moment for a new popular history.

However, I found Green's book exasperating. There are a number of problems.
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I brought this book because I was interested in the subject but I found it was very heavy reading and this is one for the specialist not really for the general reader who wants a basic understanding of the subject. Therefore only three stars as I was unable to finish the book. But recommended if you want to go into the subject in greater depth.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a fascinating insight into the Inquisition which reigned fear around the globe for so long, and at how the Catholic Church institutionalised brutality and inhumanity as far as it could, to feed the power and greed of those in charge. At times it was difficult to continue reading due to the heavy and gory nature of the subject matter. One burning at the stake is much like another, so I didnt finish it but to be honest it was still incredibly interesting, and I think I got the point.
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