Course Details

970: The Spanish Inquisition and Expulsion of the Jews from Spain

February 3, 4, 5
1:45 PM - 3:15 PM

The Spanish Jews' troubles began in 1391, when a rogue priest, Ferrand Martinez, sparked riots in major Spanish cities with the slogan, "Convert or die." Mobs forced a third to a half of the Spanish Jews to convert to Catholicism, but the sincerity of their faith would be questioned. Over the following century, these new Christians or conversos, would repeatedly find themselves targeted as scapegoats by opponents of unpopular kings with whom the conversos were aligned. "Old" Christians would engage in rioting aimed at the new ones, and the two sides would intermittently break out into open warfare. Ferdinand and Isabella, bent on reestablishing political stability to Spain, launched the Inquisition in Seville to determine if the conversos were still practicing Judaism, considered heresy punishable by being burned at the stake. Led by the Dominican friar Tomas de Torquemada, the Inquisitors used extreme methods, such as secret witnesses and torture, and spread the Inquisition to every major Spanish city. They imprisoned thousands of conversos, confiscated estates, and burned a thousand or more people at the stake. Arguing that the mere presence of a Jewish community undermined the conversos' Christian faith, Torquemada lobbied the Spanish crown to issue a decree expelling the Jews from that nation. The crown complied in 1492. By the end of that century, Jews were gone from the Iberian Peninsula, and a millennium of Jewish life in Spain had come to an end. This study group has a high class size capacity.

Class Format: Lecture and Discussion

Hours of Reading: Less than 1 hour/session

Study Group Leader(s):

Jeffrey Gorsky
Jeffrey Gorsky is retired from the Department of State, where he worked as Vice-Consul in Bilbao, Spain, and as an Iberian Intelligence Analyst. He is Senior Counsel for a law firm that is nationally recognized in immigration law. He is the author of Exiles in Sepharad: The Jewish Millennium in Spain.

Reading List:

Exiles in Sepharad: The Jewish Millennium in Spain (Jeffrey Gorsky) | 0: | Required