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The Church and Medieval Heresy c. 1100-1437

4. Inquisition

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In this module, we think about methods used by the church to deal with heresy and heretics, focusing in particular on: (i) the methods and tools inherited from the early church, particularly handbooks such as Augustine of Hippo's De Heresibus ('On Heretics'); (ii) the use of preaching tours in areas where heretical beliefs were gaining traction; (iii) the use of violent interventions such as the Albigensian Crusade, and the extent to which this was an effective means of controlling the spread of heresy; (iv) the legal tool known as 'inquisition' (Latin: inquisitio), and the distinction between 'inquisition' in this period and 'the' inquisition in the 15th century; (v) the way inquisition was carried out, its size and scale, and how we know; (vi) the penalties and punishments meted out to different categories of heretics; and (vii) the extent to which inquisition in this period is part of a wider culture of persecution that also impacted other groups in society.


In this course, Professor John Arnold (University of Cambridge) explores heresy and the church in Medieval Europe. In the first module, we think about the growth of heretical movements up to the beginning of the Albigensian Crusade. In the two modules that follow that, we examine two particular groups – the Cathars and the Waldensians – before turning in the fourth module to consider some of the methods used by the church to combat heresy. In the fifth module, we think about some of the records that have survive that give us an insight into the kind of people caught up in accusations of heresy, while in the sixth and final module, we think about what heresy can tell us about medieval society more broadly.


John Arnold studied at the University of York, gaining a BA in History, and a D.Phil. in Medieval Studies. He worked at the University of East Anglia, then moved to Birkbeck, University of London, in 2001, until his election to the professorship of medieval history at Cambridge in 2016. He has been lead editor of the journal Cultural and Social History, is on the editorial board of the journal Past & Present, and co-edits several publication series: Genders and Sexualities in History (Palgrave Macmillan), Heresy and Inquisition in the Middle Ages (York Medieval Press), and Oxford Studies in Medieval European History (OUP).

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APA style

Arnold, J. (2021, March 05). The Church and Medieval Heresy c. 1100-1437 - Inquisition [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Arnold, J. "The Church and Medieval Heresy c. 1100-1437 – Inquisition." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 05 Mar 2021,

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