Henry Kamen

Henry A. Kamen (born 1936 in Rangoon) is a British historian.


Henry Arthur Kamen was born in Rangoon in 1936,[1] the son of Maurice Joseph Kamen, an Anglo-Burmese engineer working for Shell Oil, and his wife, Agnes Frizelle, by descent half Anglo-Irish and half Nepalese.[2] Kamen was educated at Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School, from where he won a Major Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford, earning his doctorate at St Antony's College. During national Service he studied Russian, and his first book was a translation of the poems of Boris Pasternak ("Boris Pasternak in the Interlude Poems 1945-1960").


Between 1966 and 1992, Kamen taught early modern Spanish history at the University of Warwick.[3] He has worked at various universities in Spain. In 1970, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. In 1984 he was appointed Herbert F. Johnson Professor at the Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin - Madison. He was a Professor of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) in Barcelona from 1993 until his retirement in 2002. Since then he has continued lecturing and writing, and lives currently in Spain and in the United States. He is an influential contributor to the pages of the Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo.


Strongly influenced by the research methods and social philosophy of the historians of the French Annales School, he has attempted to combine quantitative history with sociological analysis and accessible narrative. In reaction against an earlier phase when he became immersed in statistical economic history, he has produced a number of biographies of the rulers of Spain, whom he considers unduly neglected. He has also been one of the leading historians who have attacked the traditional "black legend" view of the Spanish Inquisition. His own views have changed since he published a book about the Inquisition in the 1960s: his 1998 book provides extensive evidence that the Inquisition was not made up of fanatics who rejoiced in torture and executions and that, for example, Inquisition gaols were better run and more humane than ordinary Spanish prisons.[4]

One of the most important living historians of Spain, Kamen has devoted his career, most famously in his revisionist books on Philip II and on the Spanish Inquisition, to taking on the so-called Black Legend, promoted by Spain's opponents. That he has in many ways succeeded, thanks to decades of engaged scholarship, in fundamentally altering historians' understanding of 15th- and 16th-century Spain is testimony to the force of his arguments and the depth and quality of his rigorous, archive-based research.
The Atlantic Monthly (Boston), 2012.

Selected publications


  1. British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns. Rangoon St Mary, 1936. N-1-576. Folio 115
  2. Married at Rangoon St Mary on 29 October 1925. British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns. Rangoon St Mary, 1925. N-1-489. Folio 128, entry 292.
  3. http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/history/people/emeritus/
  4. Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision. (Yale University Press, 1998); ISBN 0-300-07880-3 ** Revised edition of his 1965 original.

Selected reviews

and in The Guardian, "brilliant ... lucid, scholarly and perceptive ... a revelation":

and in The Weekly Standard, Washington DC, "Henry Kamen is the finest historian of Spain presently writing in any language":

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/21/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.