The Spanish Inquisition, Drones, and the Obama Administration

I do not feel too comfortable discussing the Spanish Inquisition. It’s not my area of research and the crusades give me enough trouble as it is. I hate it even more when such historical discussions are politicized.


President’s Obama’s recent comments at the National Prayer Breakfast have stirred up controversy on the Spanish Inquisition, as he condemned it as representative of terrible actions carried out in the name of Christ along with the crusades. I came across some interesting analysis tonight that compares the latest research on the Spanish Inquisition with U.S. drone strikes during under the Obama administration.

In an effort to provide some perspective on the Inquisition, the author notes that in the 350 years of trials conducted by the Spanish Inquisition, totaling around 125,000 trials, only 1.8 percent resulted in an execution of those tried- equalling about 2250 people killed in connection with the Spanish Inquisition. By comparison, more people have been killed in airstrikes by drones during the first six years of President Obama’s administration. The drone strikes are controversial because of the significant number of civilians killed as “collateral damage.”

See Obama’s Drone Strikes are Far Deadlier than the Spanish Inquisition.

This isn’t to defend the Spanish Inquisition or suggest that the goals of the inquisitors are not offensive to modern sensibilities. I prize freedom of expression (whether religious, political, or social) probably more than any other right. I suppose what interests me most about this is how disconnected popular perceptions are from scholarly research on the issue (as is the case with the crusades). Some popular accounts, after all, seem to frame the Spanish Inquisition as a bloodbath of sorts. But while 2250 people over 350 years is certainly a lot of people, the total numbers (at least of those killed) are fairly small in comparison to other historical atrocities and mass killings with which it is often associated.