In his lengthy undertaking, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision Henry Kamen attempts to readjust his readers thinking about the infamous Spanish Inquisition. Thirty years of research brought him to the conclusion that there was less persecution and horror in the Inquisition than pop culture and historians have drawn. In Trent 1475: Stories of a Ritual Murder Trial, R. Po-Chia Hsia takes the reader on a dark journey to the wretched persecution of a small community of Jews in the Italian city of Trent. Both books tell stories of minority groups becoming scapegoats for society, Kamen taking on an entire era of a country, and Hsia illustrating a vivid example. The books have some similarities and differences, and some strengths and weaknesses in their approaches. While Kamen's goal and emphasis tends to somewhat distort his story, he valiantly maintains his effort. In deconstructing the methods used to write these two books, it is clearly understood that while Kamen and Hsia are writing vastly different books, they are both entirely good works of history.
The smaller of the two works is Trent 1475: Stories of A Ritual Murder Trial. It tells the story of a small Jewish community accused of ritual blood sacrifice in Trent, Italy. This book creates a micro history that tells a much larger story of politics and society interacting with culture. Using the documentation of the trial, called the Yeshiva Manuscript, literature of the period, letters and contemporary literature, Hsia illustrates how the persecution of the Jews in 1475 has impacted and still impacts attitudes toward Jewish people. The most important source, the Yeshiva manuscript was put together by people after the trial, using the trial r...
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...iles up and students feel the weight of the past bearing down on them. Taking both Kamen and Hsia's books into account, there is enough evidence and variation of categories of evidence that give each author a well rounded book. While Hsia was arguing that the persecution of the Jews was horrible and misrepresented, Kamen was arguing something slightly different. While he didn't deny that the persecution of minority religions was not terrible, he contested that it was in more isolated incidents and had many varying aspects and motivations. Although Kamen and Hsia wrote in very different styles, their stories flow together and make great companion readings.
Hsia, R. P-Chia, Trent 1475: Stories of A Ritual Murder Trial (Yale University, 1992)
Kamen Henry, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision. (Great Britain: Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
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