Forced Conversion in Christianity, Judaism and Islam

Coercion and Faith in Premodern Iberia and Beyond


Focusing on the Iberian Peninsula but examining related European and Mediterranean contexts as well, Forced Conversion in Christianity, Judaism and Islam traces how Christians, Jews, and Muslims grappled with the contradictory phenomenon of faith brought about by constraint and compulsion. Forced conversion brought into sharp relief the tensions among the accepted notion of faith as a voluntary act, the desire to maintain “pure” communities, and the universal truth claims of radical monotheism. Offering a comparative view of an important yet insufficiently studied phenomenon in the history of religions, this collection of essays explores the ways in which religion and violence reshaped these three religions and the ways we understand them today.

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Mercedes García-Arenal is Research Professor at the CSIC (Spanish National Research Council), and historian of religion and culture. She is the PI of ERC Advanced Grant CORPI (Conversion, Overlapping Religiosities, Polemics and Interaction).

Yonatan Glazer-Eytan is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Johns Hopkins University. He is currently completing a dissertation on the crime and cult of sacrilege in early modern Spain.
"Forced Conversion in Christianity, Judaism and Islam is an immensely rewarding collection of essays, every paper stimulating, well written, and of the highest quality. It provokes the reader to ask further questions connected withthe phenomenon."

- Alastair Hamilton, The Warburg Institute, London, UK, Church History and Religious Culture 100 (2020).

"This collection is a timely and strong addition to a growing field of scholarship on conversion, in which the work of Mercedes García-Arenal is already central. It will be of great use to scholars and students working on themes of religion, violence, and the relationships between people of different faith communities from social, legal, and theological perspectives, as well as on themes of memory (see especially Vidal Doval, Verskin, and Marcocci), childhood (notably Marmursztejn and García-Arenal), identity, belonging and exclusion."

- Stephanie M. Cavanaugh, Exeter College, University of Oxford, UK, Journal of Jesuit Studies, 8 (2021).

"Based on a conference in Madrid 2016, the volume is dedicated to topics and theories in the history of forced conversions in medieval and early modern Iberia. (...) the introduction is a noticeable summary of illuminating thoughts, and a remarkable effort to integrate the different chapters of the volume into one research programme. (...) the impact and importance of forced conversions in medieval Iberia go far beyond the geographical scope and time limit of the actual events and that they need to bother all historians and scholars of religion up to the present day – independently of our respective research foci and interests."

- Sina Rauschenbach, University of Potsdam, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 72 (2021).

"In sum, this volume is an important contribution not only for the analysis of conversion but for the study of the history of religion and how religious identities are created and shaped."

- Javier Albarrán Iruela, Sehepunkte, Rezensionsjournal für die Geschichtswissenschaften, 21.6 (2021).


Notes on Contributors
Introduction: Forced Conversion and the Reshaping of Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Tradition, Interpretation, History
Mercedes García-Arenal and Yonatan Glazer-Eytan

Part 1: Visigoth Legislation on Forced Conversion and Its Afterlife

 1 Uses and Echoes of Visigothic Conciliar Legislation in the Scholastic Controversy on Forced Baptism (thirteenth and fourteenth centuries)
Elsa Marmursztejn
 2 “Qui ex Iudeis sunt”: Visigothic Law and the Discrimination against Conversos in Late Medieval Spain
Rosa Vidal Doval
 3 Theorizing Coercion and Consent in Conversion, Apostasy, Ordination, and Marriage (Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries)
Isabelle Poutrin

Part 2: Eschatology, Radical Universalism, and Remembrance: Forced Conversion during the Almohad Rule

 4 Again on Forced Conversion in the Almohad Period
Maribel Fierro
 5 The Intellectual Genealogy of Almohad Policy towards Christians and Jews
David J. Wasserstein
 6 Medieval Jewish Perspectives on Almohad Persecutions: Memory, Repression and Impact
Alan Verskin

Part 3
Rethinking Will: The Forced Conversion of Jews in 1391 and Beyond
 7 On the Road to 1391? Abner of Burgos / Alfonso of Valladolid on Forced Conversion
Ryan Szpiech
 8 The Development of a New Language of Conversion in Fifteenth-Century Sephardic Jewry
Ram Ben-Shalom
 9 Incriminating the Judaizer: Inquisitors, Intentionality, and the Problem of Religious Ambiguity after Forced Conversion
Yonatan Glazer-Eytan
 10 The Coerced Conversion of Convicted Jewish Criminals in Fifteenth-Century Italy
Tamar Herzig

Part 4: Between Theology and History

 11 “Neither through Habits, nor Solely through Will, but through Infused Faith”: Hernando de Talavera’s Understanding of Conversion
Davide Scotto
 12 Remembering the Forced Baptism of Jews: Law, Theology, and History in Sixteenth-Century Portugal
Giuseppe Marcocci
 13 Theologies of Baptism and Forced Conversion: The Case of the Muslims of Valencia and Their Children
Mercedes García-Arenal
 14 Epilogue: Conversion and the Force of History
David Nirenberg
All interested in the history of the interactions between Christians, Jews, and Muslims in premodern western Europe, Medieval and Early Modern Iberia, the Maghreb, and the broader Mediterranean, and readers interested in religious violence, religious conversion, and the relationship between religion and politics.
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