Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Daily Life During The Spanish Inquisition by James Anderson

Pros: lots of details about daily life, some quoted stories

Cons: few images, dense prose, broad overview that glossed over many subjects

This is a non-fiction book consisting of a chronology followed by 17 chapters, two appendices and a glossary of terms. The chapters are: Early Modern Spain, Political Setting, Social Setting, The Church, The Inquisition, Jews and Conversos, Muslims and Moriscos, The Court, Urban Life, Rural Life, Family Life, Clothes and Fashions, Food, Arts and Entertainment, Military Life, Education, and Health and Medicine.

The book covers roughly 400 years during which the Spanish inquisition was run, meaning there was a lot of variance not only from region to region, between cities and rural villages, but also from one century to the next. The book does a remarkable job of squashing a lot of information into a fairly short space, but this means many sections have limited information and little nuance.

The first few chapters set the scene for the inquisition but they paint a remarkably bleak picture of Spain. Only one chapter dealt with the inquisition directly, which was a surprise given that’s the subject matter. In a few areas the author quoted longer first person accounts, which I loved and would have liked more of. Oddly there was little quoted with regards to court cases or notes from inquisitorial trials though these records exist.

There were some black and white illustrations, many hand drawn but a few from historical records. They didn’t really add much.

The breadth of information here is impressive. You do come out of the book feeling like you know what life was like during the period. This is a great resource for authors looking to add minor details to historical fiction. Given it’s strange juxtaposition of giving a lot of minor details in a broad overview, this is a poor choice for learning about the inquisition itself, but a great book for learning what life was like during the years the inquisition operated.

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