Vol. 64 No. 3 (2016)

Name-Changes and Everyday Self-Fashioning in the Toledo Inquisition, 1575–1610

Published 2016-07-02


  • placename generics,
  • placename specifics,
  • Australia,
  • New Zealand,
  • cape,
  • lake,
  • mount,
  • point
  • ...More


This article surveys more than a thousand relaciones de causa (summaries of cases) from the Toledo tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition to examine the uses of names in early modern Iberia. Three crucial features of early modern names come to the fore: the potential to communicate information about the bearer, contingency upon interpersonal use, and the ease of changing one’s name. The confluence of these factors made names a potent means for creating, maintaining, or altering identities, and thus for negotiating any number of problems or opportunities. This agency of ordinary people over their own social identities demands a democratization of the concept of “Renaissance self-fashioning.” Furthermore, the ubiquity of name-changes in the early modern period highlights the extent to which naming is a continual process, problematizing traditional onomastic sources that privilege birth-names and focus on subjects’ names at a single point in time.


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