beginning, the Jesuits themselves handled the subject. From the Society’s
earliest years, there were always people aware of the importance of the events
leading up to its foundation. In the prologue of the Autobiography (Ignatius of Loyola, Personal Writings, ed. Joseph Munitiz and Philip Endean, Penguin
Classics, 1996, 3-7) there is evidence that Fathers Jerónimo Nadal, Juan de
Polanco, and Luis Gonçalves da Câmara were persistent in trying to persuade St.
Ignatius to tell his complete life story. If, according to Jerónimo Nadal,
“this meant truly to found the Society,” it was because of the impact his story
would have on future generations of Jesuits.
chroniclers and witnesses of the Society’s initial years and decades, including
Polanco, Pedro de Ribadeneira, and Gianpietro Maffei, continued to investigate
this history through their writing. Finally, at the start of the XVII century,
a monumental history of the Society, entitled Historia Societatis Iesu, saw the light of day. Published in eight
volumes between 1615 and 1859, it was the work of the official historians of
the Society, all of whom were Jesuits. They narrated the early vicissitudes of
the Society from its origins until 1633.
During the 19th century, one of the
“conversions” of the Jesuits’ historiographic endeavours took place. By the end
of the century, it had become obvious that the way history was written had
changed. It was impossible to continue writing the series in Latin, as had been
done at the start, more than 200 years earlier. Therefore, the Superior
General, Luis Martín, promoted a long, systematic investigation of historical
sources, with the aim of producing a history of each Province, Assistancy, or
geographical area where the Society was present, written in modern languages
and in accordance with prevailing methodology.