The author contends that the Inquisition was not a medieval oddity, but in fact an integral part of the making of the modern world. He believes its legacy can still be seen today in the way powerful institutions can censor information, conduct surveillance, impose belief, as well as manipulate and punish. A thorough exploration of organised persecution, from the Inquisition's beginnings in 1231, through the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions, and into the Third Reich and Guantanamo.
For centuries states have used their power to censor information, to conduct surveillance, to impose belief, to manipulate and to punish. Cullen Murphy's extraordinary, provocative new book explores the idea that the Inquisition - the Catholic body that existed in Europe (and beyond) for over 700 years - is not a medieval oddity, but is intrinsically bound up with the creation of the modern world. God's Jury shows how the creation of the Inquisition epitomized the moment when the West passed from one kind of world to another, and when persecution acquired a distinctly modern platform: requiring record-keeping, a law system, communication structures, bureaucracy, an educated professional class - and a terrifying sense of certainty. Exploring the Inquisition from its establishment in 1231 onwards, Murphy argues that not only did its offices survive into the twentieth century, its spirit lingers on in the modern world too. Travelling from freshly opened Vatican archives to the detention camps of Guantanamo and the filing cabinets of the Third Reich, he traces the Inquisition's legacy to show how, as time went on, its techniques became the standard operating procedure of secular persecution. With vivid immediacy and authority, God's Jury portrays the Inquisition as a new phase in the battle between the individual private conscience and the forces that try to contain it. It is, Murphy argues, a central contest of the modern era and the centuries that lie ahead.