Society and the Inquisition in Malta 1743-1798
The thesis falls into two main sections. It endeavours to analyse the major aspects of Maltese society in the second half of the eighteenth century as they emerge from a close scrutiny of the Archives of the Inquisition in Malta. The approach is mainly that of the ethnologist, a social history written 'from below'. The ultimate purpose was to try to arrive at as clear and accurate a picture of the Maltese mentalite as the archives permitted. Unfortunately, the Archives of the Inquisition in Malta have hardly ever been seriously studied by the social historian. Their richness and diversity not only cast enormous insight into the mental habits and frame of mind of a wide cross-section of Maltese society; they even shed sufficient light on a wide range of the social life of the Maltese. The subject is also approached from the point of view of the legal historian. The Inquisition was a Tribunal of Faith set up to stop the onslaught of Protestantism, as well as to reform the superstitious accretions to popular religion practised by the remaining part of the Catholic Church. The thesis examines the events leading to the charge and possibly arrest of the accused. Most of the reports were self-accusations and those arrested were taken into custody only after much deliberation. If the Inquisitors did make use of torture the accused was assisted by the defence counsel and produced his own witnesses. No instance of death sentences are encountered with in the second half of the eighteenth century and those found guilty were kindly dealt with, the Inquisitors being only after their conversion.