Forced Baptisms






Marina Caffiero, Forced Baptisms: Histories of Jews, Christians, and Converts in Papal Rome, University of California Press, 2011

Marina Caffiero
Marina Caffiero is professor of Modern History at the University of Rome La Sapienza. Her research area is cultural and social history in 16th-18th century Europe. She focuses on the relations between politics and religion and on the Roman Inquisition until the last forced baptism in the late 19th century. She has published extensively on anti-Jewish intolerance in Rome. Her works extends to the revolutionary period and the French influence on the short-lived history of the Roman Republic (La Repubblica nella città del papa. Roma 1798, Roma, Donzelli, 2005). Another line of Prof. Caffiero’s research concerns the transformation of Papal rituals and ceremonies including the so-called procession of “possession,” the ritual of foot kissing and of the presentation of the golden rose (Religione e modernità in Italia (secoli XVII-XIX), Roma-Pisa, IEPI, 2000). Prof. Caffiero contributed to many important collections of essays in modern history.

This book makes use of newly available archival sources to reexamine the Roman Catholic Church’s policy, from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, of coercing the Jews of Rome into converting to Christianity. Marina Caffiero, one of the first historians permitted access to important archives, sets individual stories of denunciation, betrayal, pleading, and conflict into historical context to highlight the Church’s actions and the Jewish response. Caffiero documents the regularity with which Jews were abducted from the Roman ghetto and pressured to accept baptism. She analyzes why some Jewish men, interested in gaining a business advantage, were more inclined to accept conversion than the women. The book exposes the complexity of relations between the papacy and the Jews, revealing the Church not as a monolithic entity, but as a network of competing institutions, and affirming the Roman Jews as active agents of resistance.

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