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The twelfth century birthed a new brand of sanctioned terror, an international network of secret police and courts, an army of inquisitors whose sworn duty was to seek out anyone regarded as an enemy, and a casualty list numbering in the tens of thousands. The original agents of the Inquisition — priests and monks, scribes and notaries, attorneys and accountants, torturers and executioners — were deputized by the Church and their worst excesses were excused as the pardonable sins of soldiers engaged in a holy war against heresy.
In this lecture based on his new book, Jonathan Kirsch delivers a sweeping and provocative history that explores how the Inquisition was honed to perfection and brought to bear on an ever-widening circle of victims by authoritarians in both church and state for over 600 years. Ranging from the Knights Templar to the first Protestants, from Joan of Arc to Galileo; from the torture and murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent women during the Witch Craze to its greatest power in Spain after 1492, when the secret tribunals were directed for the first time against Jews and Muslims to the modern war on terror — Kirsch shows us how the Inquisition stands as a universal and ineradicable symbol of the terror that results when absolute power corrupts.
Jonathan Kirsch is the author of the best-selling and critically acclaimed The Harlot by the Side of the Road, Moses, The Woman Who Laughed at God, and A History of the End of the World. Kirsch is also a book columnist for the Los Angeles Times, an attorney, and a guest host and commentator on NPR.
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