Accepted paper:

A Global Prosecution of New Christians in the Seventeenth Century


Gretchen Starr-LeBeau (University of Kentucky)

Paper short abstract:

Increased prosecution of Judaizers by Inquisition tribunals in the 1630s and 1640s demonstrates increased global connections. The combined realms of Portugal and Spain communicated their desire to investigate the descendants of Jewish converts to Christianity from Iberia to the Americas and Goa.

Paper long abstract:

In the early 1630s, Iberian inquisitors received claims of Judaizing regarding the Iberian conversos (Jews converted to Christianity and their descendants) in Rouen, France. Although Spanish inquisitors were a part of the Spanish state and did not have authority to operate in another country, they took the accusations seriously. Part of the inquisitors' fears came because they saw the heretical behavior of Judaizers in Rouen as part of a larger, global community of heretics. Inquisitors envisioned a dangerous community whose members stretched around the world. By the end of the decade, Inquisition prosecutions in Peru, Spain, Portugal, Rouen, and Goa had all targeted Judaizers for particular investigation, and in the 1640s a similar series of trials occurred in Mexico and Brazil. The reason for these persecutions varied. Some were a response to local circumstances, while others resulted from pressure by authorities in the Iberian metropole. This paper traces the entangled links between these various prosecutions, which have previously only been studied in isolation, and the local and global triggers for them. Furthermore, it highlights that these investigations responded to, and in return expanded, notions of distinct global communities of Judaizers and inquisitors, who operated across long distances. Inquisition tribunals comprised an organized if fractious group who could operate with some degree of coordination when required. Judaizers were a much less reifed group, but they, too, spread a community of compatriots across the globe. These two communities, in opposition, helped create the notable rise in Judaizing persecutions in the mid-seventeenth century.

panel P29
Defining religious deviance, creating novel identities: the fruits of persecution