Ad Extorquendum Veritatem: Denunciations at Inquisitorial Trial in the 14th Century

José Luis Estévez, Population Research Institute, Väestöliitto
Davor Salihovic, Masaryk University
Stoyan Sgourev, New Bulgarian University

Denunciation furthers social control by providing access to hard-to-reach sections of social networks. We reconceptualize “voluntary” and “coercive” regimes of denunciation in terms of coercive pressure: the credible threat of the use of violence by authorities. This allows us to articulate a processual approach to denunciation as situational in nature, adapting to shifting circumstances, rather than as a propensity characteristic of a regime. We test this approach using data from the trial of Waldensians in Giaveno, Italy, in 1335, headed by the inquisitor Alberto de Castellario. A dynamic network actor model reveals that coercive pressure increases the rate of denunciation, as initial resistance gave way to cooperation. Most notably, it decreases the social distance between denouncer and denounced, shifting the target of denunciation from fellow villagers to congregation fellows and to kinship members. The motivation to denounce was mixed in nature, as deponents simultaneously disclosed and concealed, protecting close ones until they could no more. The results imply that coercive regimes are more effective instruments of social control than voluntary regimes.

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 Presented in Session 194. Legal Claims to Legitimacy, Expertise, and Truth