All Can Be Saved


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Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World

Stuart B. Schwartz

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It would seem unlikely that one could discover tolerant religious attitudes in Spain, Portugal, and the New World colonies during the era of the Inquisition, when enforcement of Catholic orthodoxy was widespread and brutal. Yet this groundbreaking book does exactly that. Drawing on an enormous body of historical evidence—including records of the Inquisition itself—the historian Stuart Schwartz investigates the idea of religious tolerance and its evolution in the Hispanic world from 1500 to 1820. Focusing on the attitudes and beliefs of common people rather than those of intellectual elites, the author finds that no small segment of the population believed in freedom of conscience and rejected the exclusive validity of the Church.


The book explores various sources of tolerant attitudes, the challenges that the New World presented to religious orthodoxy, the complex relations between “popular” and “learned” culture, and many related topics. The volume concludes with a discussion of the relativist ideas that were taking hold elsewhere in Europe during this era.

Stuart Schwartz is George Burton Adams Professor of History and Director of the Council of Latin American and Iberian Studies at Yale University. He has published extensively on the history of Spain, Portugal, and their New World colonies.

"In this superb and strikingly original book, Stuart Schwartz raises an audacious thesis that is sure to excite attention and controversy."—Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Tufts University

"This book is a major achievement by a senior historian with a long history of prolific and insightful scholarship. It will become one of those cherished classics that change the way we think."—Teofilo F. Ruiz, UCLA

“Not many academic histories make you laugh out loud. Schwartz shows ordinary people using vulgarity and humor to convince inquisitors that sex between single people was no sin, and that all sincere believers (Muslim, Christians, Protestants) would be saved—even though they knew such defiance normally led to savage punishments. This is a book you must read.”—Geoffrey Parker, author of The Grand Strategy of Philip II


“Stuart Schwartz widens the road to religious tolerance with fascinating new examples from Portugal, Spain and their American colonies. Tradesmen, farmers, and slaves argue a down-to-earth relativism as independently as any radical scholar. An important book for understanding what leads people to accept difference and a source of hope for our own time.”—Natalie Zemon Davis, author of Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds

"Schwartz argues eloquently and convincingly. . . . A flowing narrative that is at once gripping and enlightening. . . . All Can Be Saved should prove to be a very important contribution to our understanding of religious belief, past and present."—Carlos Eire, Books & Culture

“. . . Schwartz is far too good a historian to draw hard-and-fast conclusions . . . hitherto forgotten individuals of all categories (to) express their widely ranging views on the human condition afresh.  As readable as it is scholarly, his achievement is highly to be recommended.” - Count Tolstoy, The Monarchy

"Schwartz, a distinguished historian of colonial Brazil and Latin America, has written a fascinating and thought-provoking work that represents many years of sifting through Inquisitorial records on both sides of the Atlantic. . . .we have a work that will quickly become a classic."—Sara T. Nalle, Renaissance Quarterly

"All Can Be Saved is the work of a master historian who does not just pay lip service to the importance of the Portuguese in the Iberian Atlantic and who is deeply sensitive to early modern theology and ethnography. This book should spark a larger re-assessment of popular attitudes toward religion, not only in the Iberian Atlantic, but also in the other corners of the early modern world." —Liam Matthew Brockey, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“The range of its ambition, the extent of its documentation, and the breadth of its geographical scope make his new book a remarkable achievement.”—J.H. Elliott, The New York Review of Books

"Religion was central to the lives of people in the early modern period, and this book shows us how some early modern people understood their own religiosity in ways that allowed them to accept difference. In this sense, this book shows that, although religion was a source of violence and tensions in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, religion was also a source of popular alternative ideas to the central issues of salvation, sexuality, and coexistence with other religions."—Antonio Barrera-Osorio, American Historical Review

"This original and highly readable book examines an immensely rich array of cases from the early modern Iberian world that suggests the existence of a vibrant tradition of religious tolerance and scepticism in matters of faith and morals. . . . The author is especially successful in breaking down compartmentalized barriers, not only between Spain and its American possessions but also, which is much rarer, between Spain and Portugal. Moreover, his skilful deployment of a prodigious wealth of primary materials, his historiographical grounding of them in an equally impressive range of secondary works and his many suggestive and insightful observations all mark this audacious book as a major scholarly achievement."—Jay Rubenstein, Ecclesiastical History

"This book represents the very best in scholarship on the topic and is beautifully printed and presented.  It is highly recommended for the general reader and the specialist alike." —James S. Amelang, Sixteenth Century Journal

"This richly textured study is full of fascinating material and rewards the reader with accounts and discussion of some inspiring human stories."—Catholic Historical Review

"In sum, this richly textured study is full of fascinating material and rewards the reader with accounts and discussion of some inspiring human stories ranging all over the New World and some Old. . . .A valuable and stimulating book."—John Edwards, Book Reviews

"This book represents a far-reaching, thoughtful, entertaining, and provocative study of dissidence and toleration. . . . [It] will remain an important sounding board for future studies that examine the cultural history of ideas of the common folk."—James. E. Wadsworth, The Americas

"Impressively wide-ranging. . . . All Can Be Saved is pathbreaking for its methodology as well as its argument. . . .Schwartz sets a brilliant precedent here for pushing aside the tired boundaries of Iberian historiography to uncover surprising, deeply rooted, and shared societal attitudes of the early modern world."—Karin Velez, Journal of World History

Winner of the 2008 Cundill International Prize in History, given by the Cundill Foundation at McGill University.

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title from 2008.

Winner of the 2009 American Academy of Religion Book Award for Excellence in the category of Historical Study of Religion, given by the American Academy of Religion.

Winner of the 2009 John E. Fagg Prize, given by the American Historical Association.

Winner of the 2009 Leo Gershoy Award, given by the American Historical Association.

Winner of the 2009 George L. Mosse Prize, given bythe American Historical Association.

Winner of the Bolton-Johnson Prize awarded by the Conference on Latin American History
ISBN: 9780300158540
Publication Date: November 24, 2009
352 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
12 b/w illus.