Between Popes, Inquisitors and Princes

How the First Jesuits Negotiated Religious Crisis in Early Modern Italy


In Between Popes, Inquisitors and Princes Jessica Dalton uses extensive, original archival research to provide the first history of a unique and controversial papal privilege that allowed the first Jesuits to absolve heretics in sixteenth-century Italy without involving bishops or inquisitors. Dalton uses the story of this remarkable privilege to reconsider two central aspects of Jesuit history: their role in the Counter-Reformation and their relationship with the papacy. She convincingly argues that, in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation, the Jesuits were valued collaborators of popes, inquisitors and princes not for their obedience and subservience but rather because they worked with an autonomy and flexibility that allowed them to convert heretics where political barriers and popular hostility hindered inquisitors and prelates.

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Jessica M. Dalton, Ph.D. (2018, University of St Andrews), is an historian of religion and politics in early modern Europe, particularly the role of the Catholic Church. She has published articles on the early Jesuits and the Roman Inquisition.
“In summary, this book provides some good and original scholarship. […] Dalton is to be congratulated for […] mining numerous archival sources, some not previously used.”
Paul F. Grendler, Emeritus, University of Toronto. In: Journal of Jesuit Studies, Vol. 8, No. 3 (2021), pp. 501–503.


1 Historiography: the Story So Far
2 Sources
3 Overview

1 The Confident Society: Mission Building 1540–1555
 1 Finding Supporters in Tridentine Italy
 2 The Council of Bologna, 1547
 3 Beyond Papal Obedience
 4 Privileges and Pragmatism in the Mission Field
 5 Conclusion

2 Collaboration, Competition and Conflict: the Jesuits and the Roman Inquisition
 1 Competitors and Collaborators with the Holy Office
 2 Popes, Empires and the Politics of Conversion
 3 Good Cop/Bad Cop: Conversion Strategies in the 1560s
 4 Conclusion

3 Between the Prince and the Pope: Pius v and the Rise of the Roman Inquisition
 1 Pius v and the Rise of the Roman Inquisition
 2 A Jesuit Spy in the Papal States
 3 ‘A Firm Garrison to Resist Heresy’ in Savoy-Piedmont
 4 Conclusion

4 Bargaining for Autonomy: Challenges and Change at the Close of the Sixteenth Century
 1 Internal Conflicts and External Controversies
 2 Troubles Abroad: Controversies in France and Spain
 3 Defending the Privilege in the Late 1580s
 4 Conclusion

5 All Roads Lead to Rome: Jesuit Agents and Rebels at the Close of the Sixteenth Century (1587–1605)
 1 The Politics of Conversion at the Turn of the Seventeenth Century
 2 Jesuit Disobedience
 3 Conclusion


All those interested in the history of the Catholic Church, religion and politics in early modern Italy, the Society of Jesus, and heresy and inquisitions, from undergraduate level to specialist academics.