Stuart Schwartz, one of the preeminent historians of the colonial Iberian world, analyzes a persistent “subterranean” stream of religious tolerance, relativism, skepticism, dissidence, criticism, and indifference. Inquisitions notwithstanding, a remarkable array of individuals expressed distrust of ideologies proffered by ruling elites, their institutions and practices, such as religious exclusivism or coercion, the political creation and maintenance of stark class hierarchies, and the modern Gesamtkunstwerk, racism. People dared to dispute many of the Catholic Church’s claims to holiness, perfection, and control; some even contested the church itself. One of the motifs woven throughout the book is the heretical yet evidently not uncommon idea that even non-Christians who live well in their own religion are loved by God and might achieve salvation.

Schwartz announces at the outset the ways in which his study differs from its predecessors. He explores tolerance in the Iberian world, certainly a counterintuitive locale, even while it...

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