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Richard L. KaganThe best general book [on the subject] both for its range and its depth of information.
— NY Times Book Review
Posted August 7, 2004
Kamen wriltes in the preface: 'Written principally for the general reader.' This is a terribly misleading statement . Maybe I think of myself more highly than I ought but I believe that I have a higher comprehension level than a 'general reader' and this book was a difficult read. I would have been better off if I had multiple doctorates in Spanish language, history and culture. Kamen's book is riddled with Spanish words that could very easily have been translated to their English equivilent for better understanding of the 'general reader.' He mentions hundreds and hundreds of names as if they were important to the coherance of the book, but then he never mentions them the second time. It is as if he were making an effort to add length to the book. A multitude of dates would confound the 'general reader', but Kamen makes it worse by see-sawing back and forth through history. For example: chapter 7, pages 156-173, he starts in 1643,goes to 1792,then back to 1482,to 1606,then back to 1503,to 1486,to 1559, to 1501,to 1600, to 1564, to 1639, to 1563,to 1696, to 1507,to 1714, to 1550, to 1611. This flip-flopping is enough to confuse even some one with the multiple docorate. There are fourteen chapters in this book and eleven differest histories. I think Kamen could have done a better job for the 'general reader.' Now, let's look at Kamen's thesis. The Spanish Inquistion was not as bad as historians have made it out to be. His argument is backed up by Publishers Weekly which states,'Kamen convincingly argues that the Inquisition was not as malevalent-or active-as its reputation.' In rebuttal of this thesis, Iwould like to offer four quotes from this book: p.60-'2000 people were executed,' p.72-'thousands of Christians of Jewish origin had been executed, ruined or driven into exile in a campaigln without precedent in Spanish or European history,' p,176-'in Castille,1500 people have been burnt through false witness,' and p.237-'over 50,000 conversos had been burnt or penanced by the Inquistion.' My question is this: how many people have to be burned before an action can be called heinous? I think that the next book I will look for is one depictiog how the holocaust was not that bad or maybe how the PLO terrorist activities all during their existence serves to benefit world history or perhaps how the badness of al Qaeda and 9-11-2001 has been greatly exagerated. Kamen'argument did not convince me that the Spanish Inquistion was not as bad as history reflects. To be fair, there was a significant amount of information brought forth in this book. My problem was its presentation. Chapters 1, 8, 9, and 12 were well written. I would not recommend this book to the 'general reader' or even to the man with the multiple doctorate.
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