In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Spanish Inquisition

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Catalogues and Bibliographies
  • Collected Essays
  • Administration, Procedure, and Personnel
  • Regional Studies
  • Censorship and Intellectual Life
  • Witchcraft and Magic
  • The Inquisition and Social Control
  • The Inquisition as Symbol

Renaissance and Reformation Spanish Inquisition
Sara Nalle
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 September 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0150


Since its papal authorization in 1478, the Spanish Inquisition has been controversial. A religious court established at the request of the Spanish crown to punish apostate converts from Judaism, the institution over the years continually reinvented itself to confront perceived threats to religious orthodoxy, social harmony, and even national security. As a result, since its final abolition in 1834 the institution has continued to fascinate, with new scholarly and popular works on the subject being published every year. Anyone desiring to study the Spanish Inquisition should be aware of the polemical, even sensational, nature of many works, particularly those published before 1975, when ideological partisanship continued to influence authors’ agendas and assumptions. For this reason, few works dating before the revolution in Inquisitorial studies that began in the 1970s are cited in this article.

General Overviews

Although not exclusively dedicated to the Spanish Inquisition, the best overall introduction to the institution—its history, procedures, and mythology—remains Edward Peters’s Inquisition (Peters 1988). Many introductory works to the Spanish Inquisition for those seeking a general overview are available. Rawlings 2006 provides a balanced, up-to-date summary. Kamen 1985 incorporates the new social history research, whereas Kamen 2014 controversially downplays the overall importance of the tribunals on Spanish life. Pérez 2005 relies on outdated and exclusively Spanish and French sources. Less well known but representative of Spanish scholarship are Martínez Millán 2009 and García Cárcel and Moreno Martínez 2000. The Italian historian Stefania Pastore (Pastore 2003) looks at Spanish opinion of the Inquisition during its first one hundred years.

  • García Cárcel, Ricard, and Doris Moreno Martínez. Inquisición: Historia crítica. Madrid: Ediciones Temas de Hoy, 2000.

    Looks at the Holy Office’s history from three points of view: its overall history; its institutional underpinnings; and its victims, their numbers, and types of heresies. Without being polemical, the authors try to answer some of the enduring questions about the institution’s impact on Spanish history.

  • Kamen, Henry. Inquisition and Society in Spain in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.

    Retains many features of Kamen’s earlier study The Spanish Inquisition (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1965) but incorporates much of the new research from the 1970s and 1980s.

  • Kamen, Henry. The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision. 4th ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014.

    Originally published in 1997. Downplays the institution’s impact on Spanish religious, intellectual, and social life but remains a standard introduction. Updated in 2014.

  • Martínez Millán, José. La Inquisición española. Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 2009.

    More a very long interpretative essay than an introductory work. Martínez Millán puts aside the discussion points set by previous generations and focuses on how various power groups around the monarchy and in the provinces used the institution to promote their interests.

  • Pastore, Stefania. Il vangelo e la spada: L’inquisizione di Castiglia e suoi critici, 1460–1598. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2003.

    Pastore shows how in Castile various religious orders and the secular church from the very beginning were opposed on theological grounds to the state-controlled Inquisition but were powerless to stop it.

  • Pérez, Joseph. The Spanish Inquisition. Translated by Janet Lloyd. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005.

    A brief introduction tending toward generalizations and relying on an older bibliography of French and Spanish works.

  • Peters, Edward. Inquisition. New York: Free Press, 1988.

    Explains the legal underpinnings, procedure, polemics, and myths surrounding the medieval and modern inquisitions.

  • Rawlings, Helen. The Spanish Inquisition. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1002/9780470773314

    An up-to-date, balanced starting point for students.

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