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With the combination of vivid immediacy and learned analysis that characterized his acclaimed Are We Rome?, Murphy puts a human face on a familiar but little-known piece of our past, and argues that only by understanding the Inquisition can we hope to explain the making of the present.
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By Sean on 05-15-12
A balanced review based on new material
I really enjoyed the book but I wish he spent more time on the Church and the Inquisition(s) themselves. Although the premise concerns how the Inquisition shaped the modern world, there is not much new in the last quarter of the book.
It begins by explaining that there were actually 3 major Inquisitions, the Medieval, Spanish and Roman, each with its own personality. He then delves into the historical context and actual transcripts from the trials. The latter have only recently been made available by the Vatican which makes this an early work of an entirely new genre of historically researched scholarship in this area.
He takes care to point out that the reality is less sensational than the myth. He is also eager to present a view of the Inquisition that is not driven by any particular agenda, and here he succeeds. He is neither a Church apologist nor a torch bearing towns-person.
Unfortunately, the last quarter of the book provides a lengthy discussion of Nazi Germany, McCarthyism and Guantanamo Bay and tries to paint them as latter day Inquisitions. I did not find the comparison particularly insightful (Can't nearly any act of official oppression be likened to the Inquisitions?) and the book lost momentum for me in the end.
The performance was very good--thoughtful, well paced and clear.
I would recommend it to someone interested in the Inquisitions, but lower your expectations for the "making of the modern world" aspect.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful