Iberia in the History of Tolerance

Stuart Schwartz knows that his All Can Be Saved “goes against the grain in many ways. First of all, it is an examination of attitudes of tolerance among common folk, not philosophers or theologians. Second, it deals with both the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking worlds, which are normally treated apart” (8).

He’s writing a history of mentalities, of attitudes of “tolerance” rather than policies or philosophies of “toleration.”

His research reveals that, contrary to caricature, Spain was full of people who assumed a tolerant attitude toward religious differences: “My research has revealed hundreds of cases of people who expressed some kind of attitude of religious tolerance, relativism, universalism, or skepticism. They were clearly not the majority in their societies; there was no thriving underground of village skeptics simply awaiting a chance to proclaim their creed. At the same time, however, given the dangers of making such statements and the commitment to intolerance of crown and Church, I believe it is fair to assume that there were many persons in these societies who held similar ideas but had the good sense or the discretion not to voice them” (6).

He doesn’t think Spain and Portugal were unique in this respect: “the attitudes of tolerance I demonstrate were not peculiar to Iberia and were found throughout much of Europe but to a large extent have been ignored until quite recently” (8).

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