Alison Rowlands
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‘When will the burning start here?’
The Catholic challenge during the Thirty Years’ War

The Thirty Years' War had started in 1618, and the late 1620s were years of ascendancy for the Catholic Habsburg Emperor, Ferdinand, and the Catholic League, the coalition of Catholic allies under the leadership of Duke Maximilian of Bavaria. This chapter analyses two trials from 1627 and 1629 to illustrate the ways in which they were shaped by the events of the Thirty Years' War and particularly by Catholic challenges to the city council's authority. Thirteen-year-old Margaretha Hörber's narrative of witchcraft and the manner in which the Rothenburg council handled it proved to be firmly embedded in, and expressive of, this wider context of religious conflict, in which a beleaguered Lutheranism appeared to be fighting for its survival against the resurgent forces of counterreformation Catholicism. The arrest of Margaretha by the council on 18 May can certainly only be understood in the context of a long-standing and extremely acrimonious battle to defend its judicial and political power in Gebsattel, a battle which had acquired an additional religious edge in the spring of 1627.

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Witchcraft narratives in Germany

Rothenburg, 1561–1652


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