After 200 years, the Spanish Inquisition still imposes its tribute | Torsten bell

History is not only of historical interest – it is important for understanding today’s economies. This is the lesson of a growing body of research demonstrating the very long shadow cast by events.

A new article on the Spanish Inquisition proves it. The Inquisition lasted from the end of the 15th century to the beginning of the 19th century. Its aim was to eradicate heresy and its methods were the denunciation of suspects followed by torture and execution. Researchers examined Inquisition activity in local areas by considering the number of trials and revealing its lasting effect: areas with little or no Inquisition activity have average incomes of around 8% (1 450 €) higher than those who have experienced a lot of persecution.

Why? Well, engaging in new ideas or talking to others can be essential for economic development, but it’s not very appealing when it might get you accused of heresy. Perhaps those leading the Inquisition would be happy that areas of high persecution tend to be more religious today, but they also have lower levels of education and confidence than other parts of Spain. . Both are key drivers of growth.

The low income was not attributable to the Inquisition being active in poor areas – because it depended on fines for its finances, it had a strong incentive to focus on the wealthier people and places. The study reminds us that state-sponsored religious extremism is not new. And that is a really bad idea.

Torsten Bell is Managing Director of the Resolution Foundation. Learn more at

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