THE SPANISH INQUISITION

A HISTORICAL REVISION

A very well researched, kaleidoscopic study of late medieval and early modern Europe's most notorious—if hardly its most devastating—religious and racial witch hunt. Kamen, a veteran British historian of the Iberian Peninsula (Philip of Spain, 1997, etc.), professor of the Higher Council of Scientific Research, Barcelona, and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, traces the Inquisition's various classes of victims. These included the conversos (recent Jewish converts to Catholicism, who composed the majority of the Inquisition's victims), followers of the humanist Erasmus, Lutherans and other Protestants (including foreigners), Moriscos (recent Muslim converts), and Catholics whom the tribunal deemed ``heretical,'' often on flimsy evidence. Kamen is informative on the structure and problems of the Inquisition, noting for example the struggles between the papacy and the Spanish crown over its control (the latter gained the upper hand), corruption by some of its officials, and regional differences in enforcing its decrees. His main ``revision'' is to historicize the Inquisition, in the sense of contextualizing its brutal intolerance; he notes for example that ``the Netherlands [in the mid-16th century] already possessed an Inquisition of its own'' and that the courts in Antwerp (then part of Holland) ``between 1557 and 1562 executed 103 heretics, more than died in the whole of Spain in that period.'' Kamen also points out how Protestant and other writers mythified the Inquisition, exaggerating its cruelties in the service of anti-Catholic propaganda. Historians also err, Kamen argues, in assigning to the Inquisition primary blame for Spain's decline as a European power; he marshals impressive evidence against this thesis. However, Kamen occasionally over-relativizes the Inquisition, going so far as to say that it created no new problems for Spain. Yet the strengths of Kamen's work, which undoubtedly will prove controversial, far exceed its shortcomings. While its wealth of detail will appeal more to academics and other specialists than to lay readers, its clear prose makes it accessible to all.

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-300-07522-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1998

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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

NIGHT

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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