The Prisoners’ Dilemma: Strategies and Ruses in the Inquisitorial Jails of Early Modern Cuenca

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Book Chapter

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Playthings in Early Modernity: Party Games, Word Games, Mind Games


Historians have long felt conflicted about the mountains of rich documentary evidence in inquisitorial archives. They offer unparalleled detail of the fabric of early modern life, but they raise a suite of profound, if by now familiar, methodological problems.¹ Among them is the nagging concern that trial records reveal only part of a larger drama. This essay seeks to address that issue by examining what life was like in inquisitorial Spain’s secret jails, approaching them as dynamic and adaptable micro-societies rather than inflexible worlds of isolation.


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