Ideology and Inquisition


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The World of the Censors in Early Mexico

Martin Austin Nesvig

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This book is the first comprehensive treatment in English of the ideology and practice of the Inquisitional censors, focusing on the case of Mexico from the 1520s to the 1630s. Others have examined the effects of censorship, but Martin Nesvig employs a nontraditional approach that focuses on the inner logic of censorship in order to examine the collective mentality, ideological formation, and practical application of ideology of the censors themselves.


Nesvig shows that censorship was not only about the regulation of books but about censorship in the broader sense as a means to regulate Catholic dogma and the content of religious thought. In Mexico, decisions regarding censorship involved considerable debate and disagreement among censors, thereby challenging the idea of the Inquisition as a monolithic institution. Once adapted to cultural circumstances in Mexico, the Inquisition and the Index produced not a weapon of intellectual terror but a flexible apparatus of control.


Martin Nesvig is assistant professor of history at the University of Miami. He is the editor of Local Religion in Colonial Mexico and Religious Culture in Modern Mexico.

"We like to think of the Spanish Inquisition as a well-oiled institution, efficiently stamping out dissent.  In a marvelously crafted study, Martin Nesvig shows the many fault lines in such an account. The shibboleths of the past give way to a nuanced narrative, painstakingly based on archival research. Nesvig demonstrates that in Mexico, the Inquisition was a rather inefficient repressive apparatus, constantly changing and constitutionally riddled by competing ideological agendas. Nesvig sheds abundant new light on the workings of (canon) law in the early modern Spanish Empire. The flexibility with which censure and the law were applied could well explain the longevity of the empire."—Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, University of Texas at Austin

"Nesvig seamlessly combines prosopography with intellectual, institutional, and social history of a very high caliber to provide a vivid portrait of inquisitional thinking, successes, and failures in early colonial Mexico."—Eric Van Young, University of California, San Diego

"Nesvig has produced a book rich in information, interpretation, and insights.  It is essential for anyone interested in the workings of the Inquisition, and the social and religious history of colonial Mexico."—Stafford Poole, Catholic Historical Review

"A unique and thorough study of Inquisitional censors in the Mexican context."--Rebecca Price, Catholic Library World

"[a] stimulating local study of the regulation of Catholic dogma in the age of European Expansion."—Richard P Whaite, Theological Book Review

“ [a] truly unique, enlightening and entertaining book.”—Daniel Breining, Bulletin of Spanish Studies

"Nesvig's book is a most useful instrument for those interested in adopting new perspectives to the approach of supposedly well-known subjects."—Raquel Gutierrez Estupinan, Sixteenth Century Journal

"Erudite, thought-provoking, and meticulously researched."—Amos Megged, The Americas
ISBN: 9780300140408
Publication Date: September 1, 2009
384 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
10 b/w illus.