a LatAm History Class


  1. Introduction (Aug. 25)
  2. The Broad Strokes (Sep. 1)
  3. Conversos and the Jewish Heresy (Sep. 8)
  4. Locality (Sep. 15)
  5. Moving Up and Out (Sep. 22)
  6. Witchcraft? (Sep. 29)
  7. Gender and Sexuality I (Oct. 6)
  8. Spanish Case Paper (Oct. 13)
  9. Colonial Contexts I (Oct. 20)
  10. Extirpation vs Inquisition (Oct. 27)
  11. Gender and Sexuality II (Nov. 3)
  12. What if institutions aren’t what they claim? (Nov. 10)
  13. A Modern Institution? (Nov. 17)
  14. Mexican Case Paper (Nov. 24)

Introduction (Aug. 25)

To get us thinking critically about the concept of History before turning our attention to the Spanish Inquisition, we will spend some time reading about History and Progress from a philosophical perspective, and set some primary categories of method and politics on the table.

We start the semester with four short pieces. Two address the natural and possible limits of historical knowledge and temporality. Two move us towards looking over the Inquisitor’s shoulder. While reading, consider this big question: What is the status of the past?.

The Broad Strokes (Sep. 1)

This week, each of you will pick one of three recent general overviews of the Spanish Inquisition, and read them with an eye for the fundamental historical questions that shape the more specialist historiography. What do these works elide, and what do they put to the forefront?

Please choose one of the following monographs (and hopefully we’ll have all three represented!?):

Conversos and the Jewish Heresy (Sep. 8)

The nominal justification of Reina Isabel de Castilla for sponsoring the Inquisition was to guard the purity of the Spanish Church, particularly from the threat posed by “judiazers.” This week, we’re looking at what microhistories of four converso prosecutions can tell us about the converso and Jewish experience under the Inquisition on both sides of the Atlantic.


Locality (Sep. 15)

The Spanish monarchy, and it’s broader empire, was highly decentralized. Even after the consolidation of Hapsburg rule and its claims to absolute royal power, conditions were negotiated locally, and manifested in such forms as the legal customs and charters of the fuero. How did this manifest in the nominally centralized power of the Holy Office? This week, we look at the operations of the Inquisition in Guadalupe, Spain. How do historians substantiate motive in the actions of the Inquisition, and in its identified targets?


Moving Up and Out (Sep. 22)

The Atlantic Empire of the Castile is most commonly associated with the Spanish Empire of the 15th and 16th-century Empire. But, the Crown of Aragon also managed Spanish imperial power in the Mediterranean. This week looks at the operations of the Inquisition in Spain’s European and Mediterranean borderlands.


Witchcraft? (Sep. 29)

The predominate imagination around witchcraft in Europe envisions dramatic trials and public executions that were often absent in Spain and its empire. Nonetheless, this week we’ll consider a provocative account of the interest in and persecution of witches and witchcraft as a form of primitive accumulation.


Gender and Sexuality I (Oct. 6)

The Spanish Inquisition had differing effects on men and women. Women’s control over and proximity to food, a significant supposed marker of religious identity, placed them at risk of suspicion. But also, the potential heretical spirituality of women outside of or weakly underneath priestly control problematized their religious commitments beyond questions of limpieza de sangre. This week’s readings include a short book on the political implications of ecstatic dreams, as well as a series of essays on women in Iberia under the Inquisition.


Spanish Case Paper (Oct. 13)

This week we will discuss your papers.

Colonial Contexts I (Oct. 20)

How did colonial society make problematic the operating categories of the Inquisition? What did limpieza de sangre, piety, and institutional authority mean in the context of the Viceroyalties of the Americas? Where did the Inquisition fit in the institutional organization of structures of sovereignty and control under early modern empire?


Extirpation vs Inquisition (Oct. 27)

Early on, the Crown ruled to exclude indigenous communities from the jurisdiction of the Inquisition. Of course, this did not mean that native religious beliefs and practices were left unattended. How did extirpation of native practices relate to the process, procedure, and ideology of the inquisitor?


Gender and Sexuality II (Nov. 3)

As an extension of the Castilian Inquisition (as opposed to in Aragon and Valencia), the Holy Office in the Americas did not have jurisdiction over unnatural sex, unless it involved sacrilege. This week’s readings put clerical and lay sexuality into context with one another in Mexico and Cartagena.


What if institutions aren’t what they claim? (Nov. 10)

Dependence on institutional sources runs the risk of accepting the self-proclaimed legitimacy of those sources as normative. Martin Nesvig does not do that.


A Modern Institution? (Nov. 17)

In the end, what role did the Inquisition as an institution play in the emergence of modernity? Are analogues in the current day of its methods and truths indicative of a formative, or even modern institution? Or does the context of the Inquisition’s activity within the juridical and jurisdictional specificities of early modern Spanish Empire restrict it’s import?


Mexican Case Paper (Nov. 24)

One last discussion, of your own work. And then…

That’s a wrap!!