Entertaining, lively chronicle of the Inquisition, touching on a wide variety of issues across the centuries.




A roving Vanity Fair journalist takes a swaggering stab at the Inquisition.

There were many Inquisitions—also lowercased—and inquiring author Murphy (Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America, 2007, etc.) traces the tentacles of the righteous persecution of “heretical depravity” up to the present, when the fallout from 9/11 especially reawakened the urge for surveillance, censorship, torture and a general “us versus them” mentality. The author first explores the three institutions that bore the name: the Medieval Inquisition, put into effect in 1231 by Pope Gregory IX in order to quash the heretical Cathars in southern France; the Spanish Inquisition, launched by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1478; and the Roman Inquisition, taken up with relish under Pope Paul III, in 1542, and intended to stop the dissemination of heretical thought and print. While the persecution of the Cathars lasted only a century and was completely successful (“Have you ever met a Cathar?”), the Spanish Inquisition perfected the art of torture under Tomás de Torquemada, culminating in the expulsion of the Jews and Muslims from Spain and the spread of global inquisition to the Americas. The Roman Inquisition had to stem the flood of Reformation ideas pouring out of the new printing presses, resulting in a massive buildup of archives that have only been opened to visiting scholars since 1998. The Holy Office would be the relentless persecutor of scientists and free thinkers, from Galileo to Graham Greene. Murphy visits the modern incarnation of the Vatican’s inquisition, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 1981 onward, which decrees on matters of cloning, same-sex marriage, etc.

Entertaining, lively chronicle of the Inquisition, touching on a wide variety of issues across the centuries.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-618-09156-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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