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2012 | 110 | 1 | 1-19

Article title

Současné bádání o středověké inkvizici: Stav, směřování, perspektivy


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Research on the Inquisition has undergone significant changes currently. It has become more critical; it appreciates the legacy of earlier historiography and defines itself against its preconceptions. It follows wider theoretical discussions in the historical and social sciences. It pays increased attention to the publication of sources and a critical evaluation of sources of the inquisitional records. More than ever before it is interested in the inquisitors’ world and strives to understand their motivation. It seems that the most important change in the overall image of the Inquisition is that the researchers no longer consider the medieval Inquisition as an organisation or system of special court tribunals but tend to comprehend it as a type of legal procedure which was in no way merely limited to proceedings in relation to heresy. However, despite that, it is possible to discern certain regularities in Inquisition activities. They deter us from conceiving the Inquisition activities as completely random and from studying them merely on the level of individual judicial courts, or even individual inquisitors. Whether researchers interpret these regularities using the concept of discourse or not, they agree that they had a vital impact on the image of the world of the deponents. However, historians no longer consider the relationship between the inquisitor and the deponent – though principally unequal – as a unilateral exercise of the inquisitor’s power over the helpless and passive individual giving evidence. They are beginning to view it more as a relationship based upon negotiation in which the deponent had a certain amount of space for agency and expression and some opportunities to voice their resistance or otherwise influence the dialogue to which they had been summoned. In future years it will be necessary to pay increased attention to the preparation of critical editions of numerous as yet unpublished sources, as well as to new editions of sources whose publications are considered unsatisfactory. It can be expected that the source criticism of Inquisition records will develop further, yet accompanied by an ever growing opposition against radical scepticism in terms of them being able to mediate the world views of those who were questioned. It is essential that further comprehensive studies on the functioning of individual local tribunals, alongside inductive studies on religious dissent movements, emerge which would be rather founded on a differentiated, everyday picture in Inquisition records than on a problematic concept of precise institutional and doctrinal outlines of individual “medieval heresies”. Finally, there is much work to be done in the theory and methodology of the study of the inquisitional records. Much can be achieved using contemporary methods and tools of social sciences, including specialised computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS).


  • David Zbíral, Ústav religionistiky, Filozofická fakulta Masarykovy univerzity, Arna Nováka 1, 602 00 Brno, Czech Republic


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Publication order reference


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