Lea, Henry Charles (lē) [key], 1825–1909, U.S. historian, b. Philadelphia. He was associated with the family publishing business for many years, but his real interest was in historical work. Working with primary sources, he produced a series of works on the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. Although he was attacked by the Catholic Church in the United States for his criticism of church policy, Lea's work was highly praised by Catholic and non-Catholic scholars in Europe, and he received many honors abroad. Perhaps best known among his works are his first, Superstition and Force (1866; reprints and additions, 1878–92), and A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages (3 vol., 1888), A History of Auricular Confession and Indulgences in the Latin Church (3 vol., 1896), The Moriscos of Spain (1901), and The Inquisition of Spain (4 vol., 1906–7). Recent scholarship has challenged some of Lea's work. However, his great contribution was his originality and his profound influence in impressing on American historians the importance of direct study of sources.
See biography by E. S. Bradley (1931); G. G. Coulton, Sectarian History (1937), a defense of Lea's scholarship.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.