How to Expect the Portuguese Inquisition

Robert Warren Anderson

Advisor: Dr. John Nye

Committee Members: Dr. Noel Johnson, Dr. Hilton Root

Mercatus Center, 4th Floor Board Room
April 08, 2011, 07:00 AM to 08:00 AM


The Portuguese Inquisition lasted for centuries, sentenced tens of thousands of people and created a global Diaspora. However, an analytical approach to understanding fluctuations in inquisitorial severity is lacking. I use a Public Choice framework of the inquisition by treating it as a power and wealth seeking bureaucracy. I find that economic conditions affected overall sentencing; as well as political. Anti-inquisitorial lobbying is found to be effective. Inquisitors acted to protect their co-religionists, engaged in systematic rent seeking behavior and shifted their focus when it became politically expedient. Far from being a pious Catholic institution intent on keeping religion pure, the inquisition acted as a bureaucracy like any other modern one complete with rent seeking, lobbying and politics.