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.
James E. Wadsworth is professor of history at Stonehill College. He is the author of In Defence of the Faith: Joaquim Marques de Araujo, a Comissario in the Age of Inquisitional Decline, Columbus's First Voyage: A History in Documents, and The World of Credit in Colonial Massachusetts: James Richards and His Day Book, 1692-1711.
Introduction Chapter 1: In the Name of the Holy Office Chapter 2: The Inquisition at Work in Pernambuco Chapter 3: Qualifying for Office: Procedures and Costs Chapter 4: Qualifying for Office: The Problems of Honor Chapter 5: Genealogical Fraud and Political Reform Chapter 6: Nobility of Blood Chapter 7: Corporate Privilege: The familiars do numero Chapter 8: Corporate Institutions: Brotherhoods and Militias Chapter 9: Impostors, Abusers, and Obstructers Chapter 10: Decay and Decline Conclusion