How to Expect the Portuguese Inquisition

Robert Warren Anderson
Economics, George Mason University - UNITED STATES, 2011
September, 2011
Doctoral thesis


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.