The Roman Inquisition and Italian Society, 1543-1700

Module type: MA Option

Module code: HIS00092M

Credits: 20

This module examines the impact of the Roman Inquisition on the cultural and social life of the inhabitants of the Italian peninsula. Placing the Inquisition in the context of religious reform, it examines this institution’s attempts to extend a particular vision of Catholicism through Italian society. Students are invited to consider how these efforts affected the practice of religion, family life, intellectual and popular belief, and the lives of those pushed to the margins of society such as the Jews and Moors.

Encrusted in legend, the Inquisition continues to fascinate the modern imagination. This module aims to explore the myths surrounding this notorious institution, and then introduce students to modern historical research on its aims and the results of its actions. Using a variety of primary sources including written and visual images, students will be encouraged to reflect upon the construction of historical narratives.

The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

    • The legend of the Inquisition
    • A new institution? History, structure and purpose
    • The Italian Reformation
    • The family and sexual mores
    • Duelling and social violence
    • Science
    • Magic and Witchcraft
    • The ‘other’: Jews, Moors and Protestants 

Preliminary Reading

    • Black, Christopher. The Italian Inquisition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009
    • Black, Christopher. Early Modern Italy: A Social History. London: Routledge, 2001
    • Mayer, Thomas F. The Roman Inquisition. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, published in 3 separate volumes: The Roman Inquisition: A Papal Bureaucracy (2013), The Roman Inquisition on the Stage of Italy (2014), The Roman Inquisition: Trying Galileo (2015) (not available in paperback; available as electronic resources through the Library)


For more information, please visit the module catalogue.