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Anti-Converso Riots of the Fifteenth Century, Pulgar, and the Inquisition
By Norman Roth
En la España Medieval, No.15 (1992)
Introduction: While anyone who has looked, however casually, at the crónicas or other sources for fifteenth-century Spain knows something of the extent of unrest and turmoil (constant murders, robbery, rioting, etc.) which characterized that period, it is misleading to attempt to deny, as one writer has done, that animosity against and conversos played a special role in the violence of the era.
This writer, Mackay, has stated that “even a single listing” of popular disorder shows they were a reflection of “general conditions of unrest”, and warns against being “hypnotized by the purely anti-Semitic aspects” of such movements. Yet, in fact, all the instances of “popular unrest and violence” recorded in the tabla provides involved Jews ar conversos or both!
The correct interpretation needs to be that the increasing hostility against Jews, and especially conversos (far more, in fact, than Jews), was encouraged and enabled to erupt into actual riots and massacres because of the general violent and anarchic atmosphere of the century. The anti-Semitism, however, was not a mere manifestation of that atmosphere, but a separate and very real issue.
While appearing to criticize Baer’s (correct) statement that only in the late 1440s was the converso problem revealed in its full gravity, and Márquez Villenas (equally correct) statement that deteriorating economic conditions were a cause of popular unrest, Mackay provides salid evidence which in fact completely substantiates Márquez’ hypothesis, and admits finally that from 1440 to 1449 “there is little evidence of serious popular agitation.”