Alison Rowlands
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The Rothenburg evidence suggests that those areas most likely to be characterized by a restrained pattern of witch-trials in early modern Germany were those in which a significant majority of the ruling elites came to realize that the social, economic and political stability of their territories was likely to be damaged rather than strengthened by severe and large-scale witch-hunts. This way of thinking was effective, however, only if it could be put into practice: it was thus crucial for the ruling elites who were of this opinion to be able to maintain or assert control over the judicial processes by means of which alleged witches were tried. They also had to help ensure—perhaps chiefly by punitive measures such as the punishment of slander—that their subjects did not bring irresistible pressure in favor of more severe action against witches to bear upon them. It was not the size, cohesion or location of a territory which made it more or less likely to fall prey to the horrors of large-scale witch-trials in early modern Germany, but rather the question of whether and for how long this set of restraining factors pertained in its particular case. In Rothenburg and its hinterland they were kept essentially intact throughout the whole early modern period, sparing the lives of many individuals who might otherwise have been executed for witchcraft.

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Witchcraft narratives in Germany

Rothenburg, 1561–1652


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