Tobias B. Hug
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Prophets and visionaries, possessed and exorcists – all religious impostors?
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This chapter highlights the prevalence of religious imposture in early modern England, including prophets, visionaries and exorcists. It suggests that the occurrence of religious individuals who claimed spiritual power and thought themselves prophets, exorcists or healers is not a peculiarity of the early modern period, but rather a transhistorical and transcultural phenomenon. The chapter explains that religious impostors during this period can be divided into a category of people who deliberately perpetrated a fraud, a larger category who believed in their own religious powers and role but were rejected by some contemporaries, and a category of people who functioned as puppets. It argues that the language of religious imposture had reflected the struggle between denominations since the Reformation, and was again a significant rhetoric tool in the debates over probability and certainty, and over the meaning of credulity and incredulity, in the late seventeenth century.

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Impostures in early modern England

Representations and perceptions of fraudulent identities


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