• Papal Power, the Portuguese Inquisition, and a Consilium of Cardinal Pier Paolo Pariseo

    The traditional picture painted by Alexandre Herculano portrays the interactions between the papacy and King John III of Portugal, which ended in the establishment of the Portuguese Inquisition and the free hand given to it, as the product of cynicism. The vagaries of the papal court certainly intervened. However, by reexamining the tens of papal letters issued concerning the Inquisition’s origins, many of which Herculano may not have seen, one comes to a different conclusion, one reinforced by a consilium (in fact, two that are read as one) by the Bolognese professor of law and eventual cardinal, Pier Paolo Pariseo. Composed at papal request, this consilium insists on pardoning, as the pope wished, those converted in 1497, because coacti fuerunt (they were forced), words that appear in the papal letters as well. The history of forced conversion gives reason to assume both pope and professor were sincerely perturbed. More, both were insistent on reinforcing the idea of papal supremacy in matters mere ecclesiasticum, as well they should have been. For the drama of the Inquisition took place parallel to the great struggle of the pope with Henry VIII of England, who claimed, in so many words, such powers for himself. Moreover, Henry VIII, because he remained theologically a Catholic, was a greater threat in many ways than Luther. Would the Portuguese monarchy, and perhaps others, follow Henry, leaving the pope truly powerless?

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  • The Dutch Occupation and Defense of Brazil: The Question of the Support of Jews and Conversos

    Documents preserved by the Portuguese Inquisition, travelers’ tales, contemporary chronicles, and writings left by local priests provide information concerning the Brazilian conversos. Taken together, the documents permit reconstruction of important aspects of Lusitanian American socioeconomic history. Still, these must be read and used with extreme caution, as the sources always reproduce what the inquisitors wanted to prove: the persistence of Jewish heresy. According to traditional historiographers (among others: Robert Southey, Ignacio Accioli de Cerqueira e Silva and Braz do Amaral, Antonio Domínguez Ortiz, Lucia García Proodian, and Eduardo D’Oliviera França), most of the cristãos-novos (New Christians) in northeastern Brazil had apparently helped the Dutch invaders. This assumption, however, has not been corroborated by the evidence, which shows that only some of the New Christians carried out acts of war on the side of the Dutch in the initial stages of the conquest, during which they served as guides, advisers, translators, and soldiers. It will be shown that the New Christians were not a homogeneous group, nor did they behave as a coherent unit at any time in Brazil’s colonial period. In the years the Dutch occupied parts of northeastern Brazil (1624–1625 and 1630–1654), there were Christians, both Old and New, who sympathized with the invaders. At the same time, many of the New Christians born in Brazil were already integrated into colonial life and society, contributing money, fighting against the Dutch, and taking part in Portugal’s defensive plans. Examples in this updated survey on the topic illustrate that those New and Old Christians who supported either the Dutch or the Portuguese side did so mainly for economic reasons rather than out of political or religious motivations.

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  • Manuel Fernandes Vila Real at the Portuguese Embassy in Paris, 1644-1649: New Documents and Insights

    During the inquisitorial trial that would lead to his execution as a Judaizer, Captain Manuel Fernandes Vila Real (1608–1652) detailed in a long hand-written petition the considerable services he had rendered toward Portugal’s independence as a member of its embassy in Paris during the years of 1641–1649. Vila Real ended his autobiography with the enumeration of his publications on political matters, mentioning an additional two dozen confidential memorandums that he had composed in France during his work at the embassy. The present article reports on the discovery of extensive fragments from these lost manuscripts in a miscellaneous collection of state papers kept by the Portuguese National Archives. Thirty unsigned drafts, totaling more than one hundred pages, can be attributed to Vila Real on the basis of their handwriting. These papers apparently belonged to the estate of Ambassador Dom Vasco Luís da Gama, Marquês de Niza (1612–1676), who used them in his official reports. Vila Real gave his superior, and thereby the Portuguese government, a detailed account and analysis of current European events, accounts of the Fronde uprising in Paris, and suggestions for improving Portugal’s war effort, trade laws, finance, and international image. Though few of these memorandums address the New Christian problem directly, the latter turns out to be inseparable from Vila Real’s diplomatic activity.

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  • “The Purity of Blood Privilege for Honors and Positions”: The Spanish Crown and the Ximenes de Aragão Family

    The objective of this article is to analyze the process of ascension of the New Christian Ximenes de Aragão family. To do this, we will separate the text into two parts. First, we will examine the different social strategies used by this family in Portugal and Spain to achieve honor and social distinction, to separate themselves from the other Portuguese New Christians, and to try to integrate into Old Christian society. Second, we will study the main ambition of this family—the privileges of nobility and purity of blood—and the debates regarding this question that took place in the Spanish court, the Council of Portugal, and in different committees.

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  • Papal Bulls and Converso Brokers: New Christian Agents at the Service of the Catholic Monarchy in the Roman Curia (1550-1650)

    This paper analyzes the presence of the New Christian minority within the system of curial agencies, a key structure for the interests of the Catholic monarchy in Rome. It was a stable network of agents that reflected the multiplicity of territories under the sovereignty of the Spanish Habsburgs and worked alongside the Spanish embassy to the Holy See. Factors explaining the significant converso presence and the curial dynamics behind the creation of the system of agencies are examined, illustrating the operation thereof through various case studies, with special attention to Portugal’s agency. A transversal approach is employed in the study of this system, which has been very poorly understood until now.

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  • Manuel de Gama de Pádua’s Political Networks: Service, Subversion, and the Disruption of the Portuguese Inquisition

    Between 1674 and 1681, the activities of the Portuguese Inquisition were suspended by papal order. But how was it possible that this mighty institution, built by Catholic elites for religious and social discipline and political control, could be so comprehensively disrupted? This article argues that a key factor in motivating this break in Inquisitorial activity was New Christian political activism, and it seeks to explore what “politics” might have meant for such men, in a society that allowed this and other marginal groups no political role. It suggests that the financial and structural needs of the Crown, committed to empire building and pressured by a continuous war for survival during the Portuguese Restoration and subsequent war with Spain (1640­–1668), brought a small group of entrepreneurs to the heart of the state. The article also explores the manner in which one member of this group used this influence for political ends. It seeks to offer new insights into this sort of political activity by viewing it from a cross-cultural perspective, rather than solely from a New Christian ethnic or religious standpoint. It will emphasize mechanisms of coexistence, trust, and cooperation and consider politics as not only an activity of the elites but also as something in which those who were repressed or marginalized engaged. This article forms a part of a wider study of early modern politics, trade, and religion viewed through the prism of the period during which the Portuguese Inquisition was suspended. I will explore the role of one entrepreneur living in Lisbon who was involved in the suspension. This man, Manuel da Gama de Pádua, used the skills, strategies, and connections he had gained in cross-cultural trade as a tool to bring about political change, acting as procurator, or legal representative, of the New Christian community.

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  • The Nação as a Political Entity at the Court of Rome

    This article deals with the manner in which Portuguese New Christians developed into a political entity, eventually becoming tantamount to a national group in the deliberations of the Holy See in the first part of the sixteenth century. This was, in part, accomplished through the efforts of a group of Portuguese conversos who had been present in Rome since the initial concession to Portugal of a tribunal of the Inquisition in 1531. The article considers how these men acted as procurators in a way similar to other such agents who represented the interests of national groups and who maintained a constant presence in Rome for centuries. It demonstrates how they sought to abolish or mitigate the effects of the tribunal in Portugal, seeking reprieves for people accused by the Inquisition or imprisoned in the kingdom and helping to set up safe havens in the Italian peninsula where they could settle.

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  • Portuguese New Christians among the Local Elites in Seventeenth-Century Cartagena de Indias

    To show that the conversos’ ability to become an integral and influential part of local society did not depend on their inner, private religious and ethnic identities but rather on external factors, the present article analyzes the case of the New Christians in colonial Cartagena de Indias (in today’s Colombia) based on testimonies found in Inquisition archives. The peculiarity of Cartagena de Indias, in contrast to other important cities in the Hispanic colonies, relied on the fact that it was a small city with a relatively small Caucasian population, and its economic life depended almost exclusively on commercial activity. The thesis defended in this article argues that if commerce was central to life in Cartagena de Indias, and the Portuguese New Christians predominated both demographically and in the field of trade, clearly their influence on various aspects of local society had to be significant. The article presents specific examples that show the Portuguese impact in the city in different spheres of society, including the social, political, economic, and philanthropic.

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  • The Portuguese Jews in Amsterdam and the Language of Liberty

    The exceptional freedoms granted to the Portuguese Jews who began settling in the Netherlands at the very end of the sixteenth century are well known, not only to scholars but to the wider educated public. This article addresses a development scholars have not, however, examined: how Portuguese Jews in the Netherlands came to grasp their new freedoms as an expression of universal political values (rather than mere largesse), and—most significantly—to identify with those values. This requires understanding the essentially religious and ethnocentric meaning of “freedom” in traditional Jewish discourse, where it is presented not as a good in itself but as an instrumental good, in that it facilitated the Jewish people’s proper service of God. Members of the communal elite who had immigrated from Portugal and Spain would have been familiar with the terms liberdade and libertad as abstractions of Iberian political philosophy with no practical significance. But in Amsterdam they would have become familiar with an idea of liberty as a universal right in matters of conscience that pertained to all subjects of a realm, and with an early form of civil religion that embedded the concept of liberty in a uniquely Dutch religiopolitical discourse. A close look at texts generated by Portuguese Jews in seventeenth-century Amsterdam reveals how members of the communal elite came to embrace (at least publicly) a concept of liberty in its universal political meaning, conflating it with a traditional Jewish narrative in a way that dovetailed with the emerging Dutch national narrative.

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  • Mercantilism, Statebuilding, and Social Reform: The Government of the Marquis of Pombal and the Abolition of the Distinction between New and Old Christians

    The 1773 law abolishing the distinction between New and Old Christians put an end to an extremely resilient foundation for discrimination that had been embedded in the Portuguese social order for more than two centuries. Although the New Christian community had long been eroded by emigration, statutes of blood purity still upheld that discrimination. The Marquis of Pombal, the powerful secretary of state, was atypically cautious in suppressing such an entrenched social barrier, only taking the decision to do so after a full institutional procedure. The decision is associated with both the government’s regalist offensive, which aimed at the church’s subordination, and with a set of measures designed to give the Crown a monopoly over the legitimate system of social classification. Among such measures, the onslaught on a clique of aristocratic families and their pretensions to blood purity in 1768 is most revealing, as it represents a positive claim to that monopoly.

    Suppressing the distinction served to reinforce state power in other ways. Although a reformer, Pombal based his policies on the principles of seventeenth-century mercantilism and raison d’état. To end foreign ascendancy over Portuguese colonial trade and secure the Portuguese monopoly of that trade, he had to eliminate contraband, which could be partly accomplished by abolishing the discrimination against the Jews, who would otherwise, Pombal felt, be contraband’s most redoubtable agents. It would also facilitate the promotion of a group of merchants who could run the trade with the colonies. In this way they would no longer be concerned about their profession being associated with a reviled ethnic ancestry, and they could be more confident of their respectability. The abolition of the distinction between New and Old Christians was thus an instrument of statebuilding through social reform.

     

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  • Crypto-Judaism in Post-Pombaline Portugal: Legal and Social Remnants

    One of the most difficult topics to study regarding the history of the Portuguese New Christians is the decline in the number of Judaism cases tried by the Inquisition. Related to that issue, the alleged end of crypto-Judaism in Portugal is also polemical, since both in and outside of the academic world, twentieth-century “Marranos” are said to have maintained not only a specific identity but also habits and ceremonies. The objective of this paper is to contribute to the understanding of how the descendants of Jews forcibly converted in 1497 were seen and treated in both daily life and during the exceptional experience of a trial for heresy after the Pombaline reforms. This study is based on two previously unnoticed cases of Judaism tried by the Portuguese Inquisition after the apparently in-depth institutional reforms took place between 1765 and 1774.

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