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The Inquisitor as Archivist, or Surprise, Fear, and Ruthless Efficiency in the Archives

Jessie Sherwood
The American Archivist
Vol. 75, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 2012), pp. 56-80
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23290580
Page Count: 25
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The Inquisitor as Archivist, or Surprise, Fear, and Ruthless Efficiency in the Archives
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Abstract

Medieval inquisitors did not belong to the torturous institution of popular imagination. They were, however, efficient, perhaps even ruthlessly so, in their use of their archives and indexes. Inquisitors used these new technologies for creating, keeping, and searching records to uncover heresy, lies, and evasions. Using their records as an institutional memory, they searched out old crimes, uncovered false or mendacious confessions, compiled evidence, and provoked new confessions. As the written records of oral confessions, inquisitorial records are peculiarly difficult documents to negotiate, but they are also unusually rich sources for studying the unstable nexus of medieval orality and textuality.1

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