Inquisition and Medieval Society: Power, Discipline, and Resistance in Languedoc

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James B. Given analyzes the inquisition in one French region in order to develop a sociology of medieval politics. Established in the early thirteenth century to combat widespread popular heresy, inquisitorial tribunals identified, prosecuted, and punished heretics and their supporters. The inquisition in Languedoc was the best documented of these tribunals because the inquisitors aggressively used the developing techniques of writing and record keeping to build cases and extract confessions.Using a Marxist and Foucauldian approach, Given focuses on three inquiries: what techniques of investigation, interrogation, and punishment the inquisitors worked out in the course of their struggle against heresy; how the people of Languedoc responded to the activities of the inquisitors; and what aspects of social organization in Languedoc either facilitated or constrained the work of the inquisitors. Punishments not only inflicted suffering and humiliation on those condemned, he argues, but also served as theatrical instruction for the rest of society about the terrible price of transgression. Through a careful pursuit of these inquires, Given elucidates medieval society's contribution to the modern apparatus of power.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A powerful book. . . . Expertly researched . . . frequently insightful and wonderfully discussable. I welcome it with enthusiasm."—Robert Lerner, The Medieval Review

"A well-written and fascinating analysis of the power structure (and the meaning of power) of the ecclesiastical inquisition in southern France."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"This is the first serious attempt ever made by a historian to get behind the documents and study the sociopolitical context within which the Inquisition operated. Given brings to bear not only his own deep knowledge of medieval history but also extensive reading in modern social history and sociology. With these insights, he has produced a highly sophisticated and convincing analysis of the role of the medieval Inquest within its social context. . . . This study is brilliant; it is superbly researched, carefully constructed, and lucidly written."—Henry Kamen, American Historical Review, April, 1999.

"A readable and interesting account of the grim determination and efficiency with which the inquisitors in southern France carried out their jobs. They succeeded surprisingly well in their task. Given does not assess the justness of their inquisitorial enterprise, only its working mechanism."—Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"A strongly focused and accessible book . . . fluently and clearly written and a joy to read. . . This is a neat, disciplined, and authoritative study, an enjoyable and worthwhile addition which earns its place in an already crowded field. . . A rewarding and fascinating read."—Journal of Religious History

"Given's approach is new and provides an unassumingly theorised but nuanced account of inquisitorial activity and the sometimes unexpected, indeed unwanted, outcomes of the inquisitors' labours. . . . I thoroughly enjoyed Inquisition and Medieval Society. It is well-written and full of lively examples, and Given's three-pronged approach to the inquisition redresses some of the inadequacies of earlier top-down accounts. I find his use of various sociological theories fruitful, and appreciate such a historical monograph which . . . provides a model of the integration of theory and empirical research."—Kathleen Troup, University of Waikato, Parergon. July 1999.

"A book of exceptional scholarly merit that adds considerably to our detailed knowledge of the inquisitorial office."—Ed Peters, University of Pennsylvania

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801487590
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2001
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

A Note on Citations from Unpublished Manuscripts
Introduction I
Sect. I The Inquisitors and Their Techniques 23
Ch. 1 The Technology of Documentation 25
Ch. 2 The Technology of Coercive Imprisonment 52
Ch. 3 The Technology of Punishment 66
Sect. II Responses to the Inquisitors 91
Ch. 4 Forms of Individual Resistance 93
Ch. 5 Forms of Collective Resistance 111
Ch. 6 Manipulation 141
Sect. III The Social and Political Context 167
Ch. 7 The Role of Social Stress and Social Strain 169
Ch. 8 Structural Constraints 191
Conclusion: The Inquisitors and the Exercise of Political Power in Medieval Europe 213
Bibliography 221
Index 241
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