Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Grand Inquisitor's Manual by Jonathan Kirsch

The Grand Inquisitor's Manual: A History of Terror In The Name Of God was the second book by Jonathan Kirsch that I have read. It is a horrifying history of human cruelty that is full of fascinating details. Kirsch discusses the three phases of the Inquisition: the Medieval Inquisition that persecuted the Cathars and other heretics; the Roman Inquisition, a later push against heresy motivated by the Protestant revolution that included the trial of Galileo; and the Spanish Inquisition that persecuted conversos, Jewish and Muslim converts to Christianity. Kirsch goes on to discuss other Inquisition-like persecutions. He talks about the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany, which stressed purity of the blood just like the Spanish Inquisition. In the U.S., the New England Witch Trials and the House Un-American Activities Committee stressed the naming of names before a confession was deemed acceptable, just like the Medieval Inquisition.

Though covering a dark chapter in human history, this book was a great read. Kirsch includes citations of actual records from the Inquisition, giving a human face to both the absurdity of it all, as well as the suffering. I am definitely going to look for more books by Mr. Kirsch!


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