Beam Reviews Fosi’s “Papal Justice”

This is an informative and very positive review by Sara Beam of Irene Fosi’s book, Papal Justice: Subjects and Courts in the Papal State, 1500-1750, which we noted here some time ago.  A bit from the review:

Fosi focuses on the ways in which the Roman courts sought to extend papal control over its temporal territory, a region in central Italy bordered by the Kingdom of Naples in the south and reaching in the north just beyond the city of Bologna. The bulk of Fosi’s analysis focuses on the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a period of state centralization and religious orthodoxy. Courts at the heart of the papal enterprise, such as the governor’s tribunal and the Roman Inquisition, were key tools in the pope’s efforts to create a hegemonic state out of disparate regions with strong local traditions of governance. Like waves lapping on the shore, the efforts of the papal courts to undermine the traditional privileges of the nobility, to correct the religious doctrine of its subjects, and to bring the authority of local bishops under the control of Rome were gradual, uneven, and yet relentless. They were also often less than completely successful, and Fosi endeavors to tease apart the aims of the government from the reality of judicial practice. Grounding her analysis in decades of intensive work in the Roman criminal archives, she shows how the rules of justice functioned while at the same time, she remains attentive to the negotiations between different courts and the frequency with which legal disputes were settled outside of the court system. Justice, for Fosi, was a fundamental component of early modern state-building not because it was always rational and systematic, but rather because it was sufficiently flexible to adapt to local conditions and mediate between competing power-brokers.  

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