New Book: Brief Lives of Secret Jews & Other Heretics

A new book co-edited by Johns Hopkins historian Richard Kagan offers a rare glimpse into the lives of six prisoners – non-conformists of their time – who got caught in the prosecutorial web of the Spanish Inquisition. The Spanish Inquisition is not an institution customarily associated with autobiography. . . . Rather, the Holy Office, as the Inquisition is also known, evokes the darker side of life – arbitrary justice, racial hatred, and religious persecution, along with images of dreary prisons, torture, and human suffering. -Richard L. Kagan and Abigail Dyer, Inquisitorial Inquiries: Brief Lives of Secret Jews & Other Heretics

The current (November) issue of Johns Hopkins Magazine relates that Hopkins professor Richard Kagan is translating old Inquisition records. Two interesting examples: A Jewess, forced to convert to Catholicism in Spain, moved to Mexico and served as a rabbi there. (Amazing, a female rabbi yet.) Another forced convert, Dona Blanca Mendez de Rivera, also migrated to Mexico city and became the center of a small Jewish converso community. Outed by a spy who joined the comunity, Blanca and her 5 daughters were hauled before the Inquisition. Convicted, she was sentenced to a public flogging and exile from Mexico. Three of her 5 daughers died in prison. –Amichai Heppner

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