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Reviewed by Brian Chalmers It is nearly impossible to dig into any chapter of Jewish history without uncovering lessons for our own age. Spain during the 15th and 16th centuries is a particularly striking example. Even today, our view of this period, and particularly of the Spanish Inquisition, colors our attitudes regarding relations between Jews and non-Jews.
The Inquisition is considered one of Jewish history's darkest chapters -- and one of Christian history's most shameful.
In intense, pent up anti-Jewish sentiment in Christian Spain erupted with great violence against the country's prosperous, well-established Jewish community. Spanish cities were engulfed in ferocious pogroms that destroyed much property and claimed many lives.
Thus began a century of conflict between Jews and non-Jews that culminated in the mass expulsion of all Jews from Spain in Ten years later, the Muslims were likewise driven out. In their edict of expulsion, issued on March 31,King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella announced their "decision to banish all Jews of both sexes forever from the precincts of Our realm.
Estimates of the number of Jews banished generally range from abouttoAn estimated 50, Jews chose baptism to avoid expulsion.
In his diary Christopher Columbus noted: What is noteworthy about these 14th- and 15th-century actions in Spain, however, is that tens of thousands of Jews escaped death or expulsion by converting to Christianity.
As a result, by the middle of the 15th century there was a numerically large perhaps, and politically and economically significant community of people of Jewish descent in Spain who were, at least outwardly, Christians. Establishing the Inquisition in Spain Beginning with a furious anti-Jewish uprising in Toledo inthe hostility of Spain's common people came to be directed against these baptized Jews, who were known as "New Christians," Conversos, or, contemptuously, Marranos "pigs".
Baptism had done little more than to convert a considerable proportion of the Jews from infidels outside the Church to heretics inside it The populace, whose feelings thus became more and more inflamed, could not be expected to appreciate the theological subtleties of the matter.
In the Marranos it could see only hypocritical Jews, who had lost none of their unpopular characteristics, fighting their way into the highest positions of the state.
Another Jewish historian, Howard Fast, has similarly noted: And not only did they Judaize, but in the feeling of power and security these Marranos had gained, they helped the Jews who had remained Jews, prevented a great deal of persecution, and gained favors for the Jews.
King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Their marriage in united the provinces of Castile and Aragon. In their armies took Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Spain, and unified the country.
That same year "their Catholic majesties" banished the Jews from the kingdom.
Similarly, the Muslims were driven out or forcibly baptized in In the decades that followed, Spain amassed great wealth and a vast empire. By the late s it was the world's foremost military and colonial power.
After decades of continuing anti-Converso disturbances, Ferdinand and Isabella, acting with papal approval, established the Spanish Inquisition in Its task was to combat religious heresy and root out crypto-Jews and crypto-Muslims among the "New Christians. The vast majority of those brought before the Inquisition during its first 20 years of activity were Conversos accused of heresy secret Judaizing.
With the passage of time, this agency grew into a powerful institution for protecting Catholicism and the established order in Spain. It was abolished in the early 19th century. It played a major role in successfully persuading Ferdinand and Isabella to expel the remaining unconverted Jews in on the grounds that they were continuing to interact with the Conversos, and were proselytizing among their former co-religionists.
It should be emphasized that the grim reputation of the Spanish Inquisition is largely undeserved. Its cruelty and arbitrariness have been greatly exaggerated over the centuries, largely as a result of anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish propaganda.
The Spanish Inquisition invoked torture and the death penalty only very sparingly, and actually treated heretics more leniently than did other European countries during this period. In fact, as these and other scholars of Jewish history have pointed out, a common Jewish response to persecution has always been "crypto-Judaism," that is, outwardly adhering to the prevailing social-religious mores and values, while secretly maintaining loyalty to the Jewish nation-religion.
Crypto-Judaism was a phenomenon as early as the fifth century BC, during a Zoroastrian persecution in Persia, and it occurred sporadically in Muslim societies including Muslim Spain under the Almohades in the 12th century as well as in Christian societies including Christian Spain under the Visigoths in the seventh century.
This contemporary illustration shows a 16th-century "disputation" between rabbis and priests.The 'Jewish Question' in 15th and 16th Century Spain. Historian Sustains Spanish Inquisition Myths.
The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain, by . MASTER‟S THESIS CONFLICT MANAGEMENT How to manage functional conflicts within project teams Martin Kinnander CHALMERS UNIVERSITY OF . RESEARCHERS. In the list of persons involved in CHARMEC's research projects below, e-mail addresses are given as name_at_organisation where _at_ should be replaced with @.
Chalmers Johnson (August 6, - November 20, ) was an award-winning author, scholar and Truthdig contributor. Johnson taught from to at the Berkeley and San Diego campuses of .
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