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  • The Inquisition in Colonial Latin America: Selected Writings of Richard E. Greenleaf Edited and introduced by James D. Riley
  • Ida Altman
The Inquisition in Colonial Latin America: Selected Writings of Richard E. Greenleaf. by Edited and introduced James D. Riley. ( Berkeley: Academy of American Franciscan History. 2010. Pp. vi, 247. $25.00. ISBN 978-0-88382-066-7.)

The late Richard E. Greenleaf, for nearly thirty years a faculty member and holder of the France V. Scholes Chair of Colonial Latin American History as well as director of the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University, was a pioneer in the study of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in New Spain and elsewhere in Latin America. He authored two important books focused on the tribunal in sixteenth-century Mexico (Zumárraga and the Mexican Inquisition, 1536–1543 [Washington, DC, 1962] and The Mexican Inquisition of the Sixteenth Century [Albuquerque, 1969]) and subsequently extended the scope of his inquiry into the Inquisition and its officials and targets to the end of the colonial period and beyond central Mexico to include the “borderlands” regions of New Mexico and Louisiana. The scope of his work and its implications for understanding Mexican—and more broadly colonial Spanish American—society, institutions, and religion are well represented [End Page 181] in the present volume that is ably edited by James D. Riley, himself a scholar of religion and society in colonial Mexico and one of Greenleaf’s doctoral students. The edited work is divided into sections focusing on the Inquisition and indigenous practices; the Inquisition as a bureaucracy; relations among the Holy Office, the state, and religion; and the Inquisition in the borderlands. It also includes eleven previously published articles as well as a list of the archival sources used by Greenleaf in Spain and Mexico, a bibliography of works he cited, and Greenleaf’s curriculum vitae and publications. Focusing on the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, the last five chapters showcase what probably is his lesser-known work.

Given the significance of Greenleaf’s scholarship that emphasized understanding the Holy Office as an institution embedded in the complex bureaucracy, politics, and society of New Spain, a single volume that brings this material together is a good addition to the steadily growing scholarship on the Mexican Inquisition. That literature includes such recent works as John F. Chuchiak IV’s The Inquisition in New Spain, 1536–1820: A Documentary History (Baltimore, 2012; Chuchiak was one of Greenleaf’s many doctoral students). Unfortunately, its usefulness to scholars is limited by the perplexing decision to omit most of the footnotes from the original articles. This exclusion inevitably raises the question of the intentions that informed this project. If the purpose was to make Greenleaf’s work on the Inquisition more easily available to a generation of younger scholars, they inevitably will find themselves seeking out the original journal publications (which in any case are not especially obscure, as many of his articles were published in The Americas, Hispanic American Historical Review, and New Mexico Historical Review). Perhaps, then, the hope was to introduce Greenleaf’s scholarship on the Inquisition to a wider or possibly an undergraduate audience; but in its present format the book is unlikely to have broad appeal, as none of the apparatus is present that would enhance its pedagogical effectiveness (such as illustrations, excerpts from primary sources, or questions to frame discussion). The volume’s real purpose seems to have been to highlight and honor the work of a remarkably prolific and influential scholar. In that sense it is commendable and welcome.

Ida Altman
University of Florida


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pp. 181-182
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