We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Conversos, Inquisition, and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain

Norman Roth

Publication Year: 2002

The Jewish community of medieval Spain was the largest and most important in the West for more than a thousand years, participating fully in cultural and political affairs with Muslim and Christian neighbors. This stable situation began to change in the 1390s, and through the next century hundreds of thousands of Jews converted to Christianity. Norman Roth argues here with detailed documentation that, contrary to popular myth, the conversos were sincere converts who hated (and were hated by) the remaining Jewish community. Roth examines in depth the reasons for the Inquisition against the conversos, and the eventual expulsion of all Jews from Spain.

“With scrupulous scholarship based on a profound knowledge of the Hebrew, Latin, and Spanish sources, Roth sets out to shatter all existing preconceptions about late medieval society in Spain.”—Henry Kamen, Journal of Ecclesiastical History

“Scholarly, detailed, researched, and innovative. . . . As the result of Roth’s writing, we shall need to rethink our knowledge and understanding of this period.”—Murray Levine, Jewish Spectator

“The fruit of many years of study, investigation, and reflection, guaranteed by the solid intellectual trajectory of its author, an expert in Jewish studies. . . . A contribution that will be particularly valuable for the study of Spanish medievalism.”—Miguel Angel Motis Dolader, Annuario de Estudios Medievales

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (37.6 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (97.6 KB)
pp. ix

The great debt which any scholar of the Jewish civilization of medieval Spain owes to the many hundreds of Spanish scholars, living and dead, who Nevertheless, I should like to record my particular gratitude to at least some of the contemporary scholars, in Spain and in this country, who have so graciously assisted me with their friendship and support. These include ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (553.5 KB)
pp. xi

The history of the Jews of Spain is a long and colorful one. It is perhaps not generally realized that Jews lived in Spain longer than they have lived in any other country, including their homeland (ancient Israel). For well over a thousand years Jews played a major role in the cultural and socioeconomic evolution of the Iberian Peninsula, first under the Visigoths, then the Mus ...

read more

Information for the Reader

pdf iconDownload PDF (59.9 KB)
pp. xvi

Some important information on such matters as Jewish and converso population in the fifteenth century, names of important converso families, and a critical survey of previous literature on some of the subjects dealt with in this book will be found in the appendices. Some may wish to read the survey of literature before turning to the text itself..

read more

Preface to the paperback edition

pdf iconDownload PDF (374.6 KB)
pp. xvii-xx

The welcome success of the hardcover edition of this book, and the decision to reissue it in a new paperback edition, provides an opportunity for neces sary updating of some issues in light of new publications, which is done in the new Afterword. The text of the book, and pagination, remain unchanged from the first edition, but some errors have been corrected in the text and the ...

read more

1. Marranos and Conversos

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.3 MB)
pp. 3-14

The first specific mention of the term "Marrano" is found in the records of the Cortes (parliament) of Soria, convened by Juan I of Castile in 1380. The significance of the text, reflecting already the ecclesiastical objection to discrimination against conversos which was to cause a major conflict in the fifteenth century, is such that it is best to translate the text in its entirety: ...

read more

2. Early Phase of Conversions: Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.7 MB)
pp. 15-47

As we have noted in the previous chapter, the evidence of Christian legal sources demonstrates that there was already a sufficient number of cases of conversion of Jews in the thirteenth century to cause the converts to become the subject of legal protection. In the ruling of Jaime II referred to (1296), besides forbidding that they be called tornadizos and protecting their prop ...

read more

3. Conversos and Crisis: The Fifteenth Century

pdf iconDownload PDF (4.4 MB)
pp. 48-87

The fifteenth century, especially in the kingdom of Castile (Castile and Leon and the entire southern region called Andalucia, excluding only the last remaining Muslim stronghold, the kingdom of Granada), began as a period The "boy king" Enrique III, who began his reign the year before the attacks on the Jews, died in 1406, leaving his minor son, Juan II, to inherit ...

read more

4. Conversos and Political Upheaval

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.2 MB)
pp. 88-116

The crisis of the fifteenth century in Spain begins with the turmoil of the reign of Juan II, a weak and ineffective ruler. Pedro Lopez de Ayala, a powerful noble of Toledo, vacillated in his "loyalty" to the king and finally in 1440 entered into an alliance with the infante Enrique in open warfare Many of the other nobles of Castile joined in a confederation against ...

read more

5. Conversos in Service of Church and State

pdf iconDownload PDF (4.2 MB)
pp. 117-156

Jews already held positions of increasing power in the government of Spain under the Muslims, becoming even prime ministers of the independent city-kingdoms. Some of those, also, were converts to Islam, while others retained their Jewish loyalty. Almost immediately with the beginnings of the Christian kingdoms both in Aragon and in Castile, from the eleventh century on, ...

read more

6. Converso Authors, Chroniclers, and Polemicists

pdf iconDownload PDF (5.0 MB)
pp. 157-202

One of the most interesting aspects of the converso phenomenon is the extent of the conversos' contribution to Spanish culture in the fifteenth century and later. The majority of the chronicles were written by conversos, as we already know. Literature was also dominated by them: poetry, drama, novels. Another area of great significance in the developing "humanism" of ...

read more

7. The Inquisition

pdf iconDownload PDF (7.2 MB)
pp. 203-270

The general impression that the Inquisition in Spain was a product of the reign of the Catholic Monarchs is erroneous. The reason for this error is not hard to discover; the majority of the books dealing with the Spanish Inquisition begin with the fifteenth century, as though it emerged at that time In fact, there were two Inquisitions in Spain, the earlier one centered in ...

read more

8. Expulsions of the Jews

pdf iconDownload PDF (4.9 MB)
pp. 271-316

The title of this chapter is not an error, for there was not just one expulsion Up to this point, we have seen that a considerable amount of mythology surrounds the topics with which we have been concerned: the conversos, their relationship to Jews, the Inquisition, etc. It should not therefore be surprising that myth has also distorted the understanding of the Expulsion ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (5.0 MB)
pp. 317-362

Once again, the thesis (or theses, for there are more than one) of this book must be clearly stated. Massive conversion of Jews to Christianity began in Spain not in the fifteenth century but in the fourteenth; there were, of course, individual cases even earlier. The preaching campaigns of the Dominicans and Franciscans resulted in Jews willfully abandoning their ancestral faith ...

Appendix A. Critical Survey of the Literature

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.0 MB)
pp. 363-371

Appendix B. Jewish and Converso Population in Fifteenth-Century Spain

pdf iconDownload PDF (540.6 KB)
pp. 372-376

Appendix C. Major Converso Families

pdf iconDownload PDF (74.6 KB)
pp. 377-378


pdf iconDownload PDF (36.0 KB)
p. 379-379


pdf iconDownload PDF (8.9 MB)
pp. 380-458

read more

Works Frequently Cited

pdf iconDownload PDF (206.2 KB)
pp. 459-461

Amador de los Rios, Jose. Estudios historicos, politicos y literarios sobre los judios Amador de los Rios, Jose. Historia social, politica y religiosa de los judios de Espana Baer, Fritz (Yitzhak), ed. Die Juden im christlichen Spanien. 2 vols. Berlin, Baer, Yitzhak. History of the Jews in Christian Spain. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1966. Baer, Yitzhak. Historia de los judios en la Espana cristiana. Trans, (from Hebrew) ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (72.5 KB)
pp. 462-463

Bibliography of Norman Roth's Writings

pdf iconDownload PDF (404.4 KB)
pp. 464-468


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 469-483

E-ISBN-13: 9780299142339
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299142346

Publication Year: 2002