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The Roman Inquisition & Italian Society, 1543-1700 - HIS00092M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Simon Ditchfield
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20
    • See module specification for other years: 2020-21

Module summary

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.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation;
  • Assess a range of source material and relevant secondary works; and
  • Develop students’ powers of evidence-based historical argument, both orally and in writing.

Module learning outcomes

After completing this module students should have:

  • Understood the common features of institutional Inquisitions (medieval and early modern)
  • Analysed the connections between religious reform and repression
  • Developed their skills in analysing primary sources (such as trial records)
  • Gained an insight into the political uses of history by later writers about the Inquisition

Module content

Teaching Programme:
Students will attend eight weekly two-hour seminars in weeks 2-9.

The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

  1. The legend of the Inquisition
  2. A new institution? History, structure and purpose
  3. The Italian Reformation
  4. The family and sexual mores
  5. Duelling and social violence
  6. Science
  7. Magic and Witchcraft
  8. The ‘other’: Jews, Moors and Protestants


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will complete a 2,000-word procedural essay for formative assessment, due in week 6 of the autumn term. They will then submit a 4,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 2 of the spring term.

For further details about assessed work, students should refer to the Taught Masters Degrees Statement of Assessment.


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive written feedback consisting of comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural work during their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of 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)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.