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The Grand Inquisitor's Manual

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  216 ratings  ·  38 reviews
The Surprising History and Legacy of the Inquisition

The renowned historian and critic Jonathan Kirsch presents a sweeping history of the Inquisition and the ways in which it has served as the chief model for torture in the West to this day. Ranging from the Knights Templar to the first Protestants; from Joan of Arc to Galileo; from the Inquisition's immense power in Spain
ebook, 304 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published September 1st 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 572)
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Paul Pessolano
If you want to know everything there is to know about the Inquisition this book comes pretty close to doing that. When we speak of the Inquisition most of us do not realize that there were in fact two separate Inquisitions, there was the Medieval Inquisition and the more famous and more deadly Spanish Inquisition.

The Inquisitions were instituted by the Roman Catholic Church to stamp out heresy. The author takes this a step further and cites several reasons that grew out of this program.

The Roman
I was hesitant to read this because I knew that I would get pissed off. I was right. But because I kept coming across the Inquisition in my readings of history, I thought it might be good to get some information about it. I thought perhaps I might even get some new information about it.

Although I try to maintain a certain amount of objectivity in reading about the Inquisition, ultimately I am appalled by the behavior of the Catholic Church. I made a real effort to contextualize the circumstance
Could not put this one down. After years studying holocaust, genocide,etc, this one put it all together. A kind of formula developed by ancient Romans contains elements of such effectiveness that it has been used through history by successive cultures right up to present day. This put so many things together for me it will undoubtedly be on my "life list" stamped in my mind like Joseph Campbell and james Michener. Kirsch is an exhaustive researcher but like Michener captures and holds the reader ...more
I’ve read most of Jonathan Kirsch’s work, beginning with The Harlot by the Side of the Road. In his earlier books, he’s an engaging writer able to winkle out some of the lesser known aspects of commonly accepted ideas and stories in Western history – as in his first book, Harlot, which highlighted “real” and obscure but important stories from the Hebrew and Christian bibles.

In recent works, however, I’ve felt that Kirsch has been throwing together poorly integrated essays in response to popular
Todd Stockslager
Sensationalist style oversells salient points in Kirsch's history of the inquisitions of the Catholic church.

First, the salient points: Kirsch tells the history of inquisition as the establishment of a clerical bureaucracy, which included judges, prosecutors, police, secret agents, procedural manuals, and prescribed and preferred tools of punishment, and which paralleled the contemporary political courts and criminal proceedings in Western Europe. The difference is that the inquisitions targete
Michael Lewyn
The best part of this book is the first few chapters, which describes the Inquisition before the Spanish Inquisition (mostly from the 1200s to the 1400s, and mostly in western Europe, especially France). The book explains the sheer randomness of Inquisition terror- the Inquisition could haul you in on an anonymous tip or its own suspicion or greed (since it could confiscate your property), and then torture you until you confessed to heresy and then named a few other heretics as well. The Spanish ...more
People who believe "right and wrong" are divided along political lines (read: Most Americans) will become slightly uncomfortable with this book as it progresses. Yes, it is primarily about the various inquisitions that swept across across Europe but it is also a cautionary morality tale.

Those who don't learn from history are destined to repeat it and Kirsch reveals how the Inquisitor's manual was one deftly dusted off and repackaged when necessary. Whether by "relocating" Jews to death camps, in
Gus Victoria
Excellently written and very compelling. At times the author can come across as biased and preachy but it is contextualized and drives home the point he is trying to make. Have some patience and the soapbox moments will be rewarded. Incredibly well researched with extensive footnotes and references. Well worth the read.
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This was kind of disappointing, but not because it's a bad book. Jonathan Kirsch seems to have written this with a low expectation of his audience's reading skills. Perhaps, it's an NPR writing style, but I found his chapters to be written as separate essays rather than as parts of a cohesive book. Certain facts and essays tend to be repeated over and over again, as if we haven't already read them. It was much like watching a modern
The Grand Inquisitor's Manual takes us from the inception of the Inquisition in the 12th century to it's end in the mid 19th century, and ends with a look forward to events that seem to have their roots in the Inquisition, like the holocaust.

It was very interesting to read about, I haven't really looked into the Inquisition before, so there was a lot of new information for me. The book is an easy read and seems to get around to the importent parts (though I don't know for sure since I don't kno
Elliot Ratzman
I didn’t know anything about the Inquisition before I read Jonathan Kirsch’s satisfying book; now I know enough to contextualize my lecture about medieval anti-Semitism. I learned about the Cathars, a rigorous and ascetic Christian heretical movement that was exterminated by a crusade and the medieval Inquisition. Set up to deal with heresy, the Inquisition established the template for totalitarian legal regimes: torture, confession, state security police, naming names, wild conspiracies, though ...more
Barbara Stoner
Christendom seemed to have grown delirious and Satan might well smile at the tribute to his power in the endless smoke of the holocaust which bore witness to the triumph of the Almighty.

A History of The Inquisition of The Middle Ages; volume I , by Henry Charles Lea.

Jonathan Kirsch uses this quote to begin his The Grand Inquisitor's Manual: A History of Terror in the Name of God , in which he outlines the history of terror practiced in the West as perceived threats to an ordered society, one in
Mar 12, 2010 Heather rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one with a brain
While this book should have been interesting, and may contain some good information, its disorganization and repetitiveness completely overshadow its good qualities. I was about halfway through the book before I started feeling like I was no longer reading the introduction. The author is not a historian, and does not make any attempt to treat information with objectivity, and in the later part of the book, he freely admits to this. Throughout the book, the author quotes his few favored sources a ...more
The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, the Spanish Inquisition and the Roman Inquisition provided for centuries of terror, torture and well documented strategies in annihilating mostly innocent people for heresy. While the original objective of the Inquisition was the Roman Catholic Church's fear of losing control over the thoughts and beliefs of Christians, the inquisitors, the Church and later, the kings of Spain and France, turned it into a strategy in profiteering and later, genocide.

The word "Inquisition" is, in many ways, one of the most dreadful to hear. When one looks at it objectively, at the level of basic vocabulary, it seems almost innocent, associated as it is with the words "inquiry" and "inquire," words associated with ideas of polite but focused curiosity. But there is absolutely nothing polite or merely curious about the movement known as the Inquisition, as any student of history knows.

The Grand Inquisitor's Manual: A History of Terror in the Name of God is aut
Horrifying & detailed look into the history of the Inquisition (in the variety of forms that it took over time) - but I couldn't shake the feeling that the author really, really wanted to use this historical account as a platform to pontificate on current American policy.

The weakest part of the book is the closing section - while he does an excellent job of establishing the connections of the Inquisition bureaucracy to Nazi Germany & the Soviet Union under Stalin, his attempts to paralle
Everton Patterson
My daughter is doing George Orwell's '1984' in high school, but reading Jonathan Kirsch's The Grand Inquisitor's Manual made me realize that the kind of society portrayed in '1984' is not necessarily a future dystopia, but it has already happened in reign of terror that lasted 600 years. This is a sordid, sordid history of the three inquisitions (medieval, Roman and Spanish) when Holy Mother Church ruled with an iron fist. People were prosecuted for thought-crimes, i.e. if what they believed did ...more
Graeme Merrall
This book started out promising but I should have spotted the warning signs. Any sentence that contains "modern day" and "as we shall discover" at the end if a chapter is a book of history is always a bad sign.

In terms of the actual history of the Inquisition its not a bad read despite some historical inaccuracies. For example, there's no evidence "The Pear" was actually ever used as an instrument of torture, plus there's no sign of a Papal Bull issued against the Spanish Inquisition in the 150
Ken Sweet

Although I sometimes felt as if the author had a definite agenda (to prove Inquisition apologists wrong,) I feel compelled to believe in his agenda as fact, and therefore greatly enjoyed the work. The persecution of anyone of differing beliefs (and many who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time) has led to the time-honored techniques of mass hysteria = witch hunt = innocent lives being lost.

One of my own ancestors was Samuel Wardwell, a good Christian, hung as a witch d
Quite good; I found the first 2/3 of the book interesting, dealing with the early history of the inquisition, but for me, the last section dealing with the modern legacy of inquisition (Nazism, Soviet show trials) was a bit dull and could have been cut down considerably.
Political essay in guise of "historical" book. Author is definitely not an historian, but if he is, shame on him. Kirsch spends too much time trying to compare what happened centuries ago to the events of the present day, with typical freshman college student ernestness. And like a freshman he relies too heavily on the work of others to make his point with little effort at examining those sources with measured skepticism. He seems more interested in proving his sources are infallible than presen ...more
I'm not entirely sure this is much more than snuff porn, and given that suspicion, I'm not sure what it says about me that I've read my copy twice. (In my defense I was quite bored the second time I picked it up and didn't have a library card yet.) It does give a bit of insight into how the Inquisitions (Medieval, Roman and Spanish) prefigured torture as used by governments in the 20th and 21st centuries (waterboarding was called "water treatment" in the 13th century). More interesting to me is ...more
Brian Kenneth Swain
Interesting non-academic overview of the Inquisition. Engaging style, if quite repetitive and polemical. Plenty of interesting anecdotes and trenchant parallels drawn to later regimes, including our own.
This book was really engaging for the first few chapters, and then quickly took a nosedive. After covering the medieval Inquisition quite well, the recap of the Spanish Inquisition gets very repetitive. The later chapters drawing parallels to McCarthyism, Abu Ghraib, the Salem witch trials, Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany did not need to be broken down in such detail. I felt he was beating a dead horse by that point. One chapter to sum up parallels would have sufficed, as I picked up the book ...more
As the subtitle says, it's a history of terror in the Name of God. However, the last chapter notes that God can be a political ideology a la Nazism, Stalinism, McCarthyism, and Bush/Cheneyism. What we should learn from this history of the Inquisition, as the author states, is 'the machinery of persecution once switched on, cannot be easily slowed or directed, much less stopped.' He notes that inquisitions are based on whispered rumors and fabricated evidence, testimony taken in secret from anony ...more
A very good history of the inquisition with good comparisons to the more modern ones such as the witch hunts and those implemented by Hitler, Stalin, Roosevelt, McCarthy and Bush. Many of the techniques used centuries ago have been useful in the present, water boarding for example, was once known as the ordeal by water. What have we learned from this history? "Either you're with us, or you're with the enemy."
I wanted to learn about the inquisition and I picked this up from the library. It was very informative and I learned a lot. I also liked how he tied the inquisition to Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia. I could have done without the last chapter of him trying to equate water boarding in the war on terror with inquisition torturing of innocent people.
Daniel Kukwa
An exceptional overview of the most repugnant, repulsive, horrific treatment dished out by humans against other humans over the last thousands years. Its concise nature doesn't dilute the power of the tale it tells...or the linkages to 20th and 21st century atrocities of a similar nature. This is well worth the time and effort to fully absorb.
David Melbie
Aug 16, 2011 David Melbie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history lovers
Recommended to David by: Picked from Library
This is great! I especially liked how the author implies that, even though we are centuries past the Inquisition, the attitude still prevails as far as how people live in fear of people who are different than them. The last chapter -- American Inquisition -- was way too short, but gets the point across nonetheless.
This was an amazing book on christianity/Catholocism and the things that have occured through the ages in a struggle for power, God, humanity, and what cruel things people will do for these things. But some may see it as blessings bestowed by God for the greater human decide!
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“Then as now, demonization of the victim is the necessary precondition for genocide.” 3 likes
“ sexual typical of the impulses of religious authoritarians to demonize all heretics by attributing to them every manner of outrage that a perverse human mind could imagine.” 2 likes
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