Lea, Henry Charles°

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LEA, HENRY CHARLES ° (1825–1909), U.S. historian whose research into the history of the Church and its institutions made him one of the most distinguished scholars of the United States. Lea's monumental works, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages (3 vols., 1888) and A History of the Inquisition of Spain (4 vols., 1906–07), are fundamental and represent an extensive achievement, as did his The Inquisition in the Spanish Dependencies (1908). Through them, Lea founded a Protestant school for the study of the Inquisition based on archival sources. His system was principally concerned with the study of the general framework of the Inquisition, its policies, and operational methods. He himself considered that these works were the result of his prime interest in the history of sorcery and superstitions in Europe. They have been adapted, abridged, and translated into various languages. In his writings, Lea reserved much sympathy for the question of the forced converts and the Jews, and commented upon the heavy responsibility of the Catholic Church and Spain for their fate. He bequeathed his manuscripts and the material which he had collected during his lifetime to the library of the University of Pennsylvania.


E.S. Bradly, Henry Charles Lea, a Biography (1931); H.C. Lea, Materials Toward a History of Witchcraft (1957), introd. v–viii, xxi–xliii.

[Haim Beinart]