Agents of orthodoxy: Inquisitional power and prestige in colonial Pernambuco, Brazil
KeywordsHistory, Latin American.
AdvisorBarickman, Bert J.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis study investigates those 1,046 men who applied to work for the Portuguese Inquisition in the Captaincy-General of Pernambuco, one of Portugal's oldest, wealthiest, and most densely populated colonies in Brazil, between 1613 and 1821. It challenges the "myth" of the Inquisition that continues to obscure our understanding of the Inquisition, the men who ran it, and the society that upheld it. The Inquisition's procedures of selection, the privileges it offered, the rich symbolic repertoire it utilized, and the institutions it organized, such as the militia company of familiares and the brotherhood of St. Peter Martyr, all contributed to the construction of inquisitional prestige, honor, power, and status. I show that the Inquisition became one of several institutions that supplied the necessary "proofs" of purity and status that many families and individuals needed to legitimize and maintain their social standing. The criteria the Inquisition used to select its officials resonated with Pernambucan cultural values and had very real applicability in the colony. Inquisitional appointments came to be used in local power struggles to discredit rivals and inquisitional authority was abused by those who sought personal gain or advantage in personal rivalries. But by the end of the eighteenth century, a complex combination of forces, including the restriction of inquisitional privileges, the ideas of the Enlightenment, and the elimination of legalized discrimination, coalesced to force open the ranks of the Inquisition contributing to a decline in inquisitional power and prestige and an accompanying decline in the prestige value of inquisitional appointments and the Inquisition's ability to produce and maintain the honor, prestige, status and power it once supplied.
Degree ProgramGraduate College