The Inquisition in New Spain, 1536-1820: A Documentary History

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The Inquisition! Just the word itself evokes, to the modern reader, endless images of torment, violence, corruption, and intolerance committed in the name of Catholic orthodoxy and societal conformity. But what do most people actually know about the Inquisition, its ministers, its procedures? This systematic, comprehensive look at one of the most important Inquisition tribunals in the New World reveals a surprisingly diverse panorama of actors, events, and ideas that came into contact and conflict in the central arena of religious faith.

Edited and annotated by John F. Chuchiak IV, this collection of previously untranslated and unpublished documents from the Holy Office of the Inquisition in New Spain provides a clear understanding of how the Inquisition originated, evolved, and functioned in the colonial Spanish territories of Mexico and northern Central America. The three sections of documents lay out the laws and regulations of the Inquisition, follow examples of its day-to-day operations and procedures, and detail select trial proceedings. Chuchiak’s opening chapter and brief section introductions provide the social, historical, political, and religious background necessary to comprehend the complex and generally misunderstood institutions of the Inquisition and the effect it has had on societal development in modern-day Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras.

Featuring fifty-eight newly translated documents, meticulous annotations, and trenchant contextual analysis, this documentary history is an indispensable resource for anyone seeking to understand the Inquisition in general and its nearly three-hundred-year reign in the New World in particular.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Good Reads - Jose Esquibel

John F. Chuchiak offers the most comprehensive account published in English of the administrative operation of the Inquisition in New Spain.

Journal of Latin American Studies - Matthew Restall

A revelation and a pleasure. [ The Inquisition in New Spain, 1536–1820] will be much appreciated by scholars and students of colonial Latin America.


This collection of documents pertaining to the Holy Office of the Inquisition for New Spain makes an important contribution to readers' understanding of the efforts to maintain social control and religious conformity in multiethnic New Spain.


This collection of documents pertaining to the Holy Office of the Inquisition for New Spain makes an important contribution to readers' understanding of the efforts to maintain social control and religious conformity in multiethnic New Spain.

Colonial Latin American Historical Review

Chuchiak's book is recommended for classroom use as well as for researchers and lecturers on the subject. Those interested in knowing more about the Inquisition will find this book a must read.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781421403861
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 4/18/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

John F. Chuchiak IV is a professor of Colonial Latin American History and the Rich and Doris Young Honors College Endowed Professor at Missouri State University, where he is the director of the Honors College and of the Latin American, Caribbean, and Hispanic Studies Program.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

List of Documents ix

Foreword Asunción Lavrin xiii

Preface xvii

Acknowledgments xxi

Editor's Note xxiii

The Holy Office of the Inquisition in New Spain (Mexico): An Introductory Study 1

I Laws, Regulations, and Instructions concerning the Holy Office

Regulations concerning the Tribunals of the Holy Office of the Inquisition 57

II Documents concerning the Operations and Procedures of the Inquisition in New Spain

Edicts of Faith of the Inquisition in New Spain 107

Inquisition Prisons and Life in the Cells 122

Administration of Torture in Inquisition Trials 132

Autos-da-fe in New Spain 150

Finances and Assets of the Inquisition in New Spain 186

III Selections of Trials and Procesos de Fe of the Inquisition in New Spain, 1536-1820

Blasphemy Trials 205

Bigamy, Polygamy, and Crimes against the Sacrament of Matrimony 218

Trials and Testimonies against Jewish and Crypto-Jewish Practices 235

Trials and Testimonies against Lutherans, Calvinists, and Other Protestants 257

Trials and Testimonies against Alumbrados (Illuminati) and Others for Heretical Acts and False Revelations 274

Trials and Testimonies against Superstitions, Sorcery, and Magical Practices 292

Trials and Testimonies against the Use of Peyote and Other Herbs and Plants for Divination 308

Trials and Testimonies Related to Prohibited Books 318

Glossary 343

Notes 357

Selected Bibliography 395

Index 415

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