The Business of the Roman Inquisition in the Early Modern Era  book cover
1st Edition

The Business of the Roman Inquisition in the Early Modern Era

ISBN 9781472480132
Published December 7, 2016 by Routledge
300 Pages

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Book Description

Established in 1542, the Roman Inquisition operated through a network of almost fifty tribunals to combat heretical and heterodox threats within the papal territories. Whilst its theological, institutional and political aspects have been well-studied, until now no sustained work has been undertaken to understand the financial basis upon which it operated. Yet  – as The Business of the Roman Inquisition in the Early Modern Era shows – the fiscal autonomy enjoyed by each tribunal was a major factor in determining how the Inquisition operated. For, as the flow of cash from Rome declined, each tribunal was forced to rely upon its own assets and resources to fund its work, resulting in a situation whereby tribunals increasingly came to resemble businesses. As each tribunal was permitted to keep a substantial proportion of the fines and confiscations it levied, questions quickly arose regarding the economic considerations that may have motivated the Inquisition’s actions. Dr Maifreda argues that the Inquisition, with the need to generate sufficient revenue to continue working, had a clear incentive to target wealthy groups within society who could afford to yield up substantial revenues. Furthermore, as secular authorities also began to rely upon a levy on these revenues, the financial considerations of decisions regarding heresy prosecutions become even greater. Based upon a wealth of hitherto neglected primary sources from the Vatican and local Italian archives, Dr Maifreda reveals the underlying financial structures that played a vital part in the operations of the Roman Inquisition. By exploring the system of incentives and pressures that guided the actions of inquisitors in their procedural processes and choice of victims, a much clearer understanding of the Roman Inquisition emerges. This book is an English translation of I denari dell’inquisitore. Affari e giustizia di fede nell’Italia moderna (Turin: Einaudi, 2014).

Table of Contents


Part I: The Economy of the Holy Office

1. The Financing of the Inquisitorial System

2. Managing the Courts of Faith

3. Monetary Penalties and the Building of the Inquisitorial Machine

Part II: The Inquisition and Economic Life

4. "The Citizen Dies, the Man Remains": Confiscation

5. A Pervasive Inquisition

6. The Inquisitor Between Land and Finance


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Germano Maifreda is Professor of Economic History at the Department of Historical Studies of the Università degli Studi di Milano (Italy).