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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST2090 Sin in Spanish America, 1571-1700

20 creditsClass Size: 42

Module manager: Guillaume Candela

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The Catholic Church exerted extraordinary control over Spanish America through the mobilization of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Charged with ensuring religious orthodoxy, inquisitors sought to root out sin in whatever manifestation it took. Whether tracking down bigamists or punishing those accused of witchcraft, the Holy Office relentlessly pursued heretics of all kinds. First established in Mexico City in 1571, the imposing structure of its investigative hub literally and figuratively emerged in the heart of the Spanish empire and struck fear across socioeconomic and ethno-racial lines. Few were spared from its wrath as its presence and influence spread across Spanish America. This module will focus on the history of the Inquisition from its founding to its height of power in the seventeenth century and how various historical actors fought for their dignity but also their survival.


The aim of this module is to inform understanding of how notions of sin influenced individual behaviour and community expectations but also how the criminalization of sin was used as a tool of the Spanish empire; to strengthen students’ ability to identify and interrogate historical arguments; to critically examine primary and secondary sources related to the early modern Catholic Church; to effectively track and analyse relevant theoretical and historiographical developments related to the Catholic Church’s notion of sin; and to develop collaborative practices and essay writing skills.

Learning outcomes
On the successful completion of this module, students will have the ability to:
1. Discuss the historical development of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in the Spanish American Colonies.
2. Identify, comprehend, and critique historical arguments on how the notion of sin shaped various aspects of colonial society.
3. Employ a working proficiency in both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to analyse primary sources.
4. Apply fundamental standards and practices of historical study for research, discussion, and assessed work.


This module may include the following topics: the Inquisition, Catholic Church, Spanish Empire, colonization, slavery, familial expectations, politics, revenge, gendered violence.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Researching, preparing and writing assessments (75 hours); undertaking set reading for seminars (55 hours); self-directed reading around the topic (20 hours), reviewing and consolidating notes (22 hours); reflecting on feedback (8 hours).

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Feedback will be provided on the primary source analysis in good time before the final essay.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3000 words due on Monday of Exam Week 160.00
Assignment2000 word primary source analysis40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 07/09/2022


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