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Rothenburg, 1561–1652

Given the widespread belief in witchcraft and the existence of laws against such practices, why did witch-trials fail to gain momentum and escalate into ‘witch-crazes’ in certain parts of early modern Europe? This book answers this question by examining the rich legal records of the German city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a city that experienced a very restrained pattern of witch-trials and just one execution for witchcraft between 1561 and 1652. The book explores the factors that explain the absence of a ‘witch-craze’ in Rothenburg, placing particular emphasis on the interaction of elite and popular priorities in the pursuit (and non-pursuit) of alleged witches at law. By making the witchcraft narratives told by the peasants and townspeople of Rothenburg central to its analysis, the book also explores the social and psychological conflicts that lay behind the making of accusations and confessions of witchcraft. Furthermore, it challenges the existing explanations for the gender-bias of witch-trials, and also offers insights into other areas of early modern life, such as experiences of and beliefs about communal conflict, magic, motherhood, childhood and illness. Written in a narrative style, the study invites a wide readership to share in the drama of early modern witch trials.

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‘When Women goe to Law, the Devill is full of Businesse’
Lindsay R. Moore

opportunities or resources to seek justice in the courts, and any number of factors might influence their decisions to pursue legal action. One of the goals of this book is to look at the variations in women’s circumstances, and to uncover the different strategies and methods that women used to engage with the law. Sources: opportunities and limitations Depositions, petitions, bills of complaint and other texts that comprise the historical legal record make this study of women’s lives in early modern England and the American colonies possible. The bulk of the evidence for

in Women before the court
Edward Legon

and revolution requires a careful engagement with evidence of seditious and treasonable speech and writing in legal records and government papers. This includes cases which came before quarter and assize sessions courts and which were conveyed to secretaries of state at Whitehall. The chapter begins by identifying views about the civil wars and revolution that the Sedition Act of 1661 and other legislation of the Cavalier Parliament sought specifically to counteract. Thereafter, we encounter other ‘forms’ of remembering which, owing to the breadth of what was held

in Revolution remembered
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‘Remember the Good Old Cause’
Edward Legon

of seditious and treasonable speech, its scope is confined to the three decades in which British governments were preoccupied by sympathies for Parliament and the Republic. That, as Paul Kléber Monod has shown, Jacobitism replaced these sympathies as the chief menace to William and Mary’s government deems the Glorious Revolution of 1688–89 an appropriate limit for this study.27 The legal records and government papers in which alternative opinions about the civil wars and revolution reside have proven fecund for historians of the Restoration, especially those who

in Revolution remembered
Open Access (free)
Francis Bacon’s History of the Reign of King Henry VII
Ben Dew

shaped by his reading of a variety of other sources, principally legal records, classical history (particularly Tacitus) and the writings of Machiavelli and his various critics. This chapter investigates how Bacon fused methods and ideas derived from these works and explores the consequences of this move. Central among them, I argue, was the development of a new approach to the representation of finance and commerce. The chapter is divided into three sections. Section one discusses the humanist approach to history employed in pre-Baconian histories of Henry VII, most

in Commerce, finance and statecraft
An introduction
Elwin Hofman

institutions, discourses and practices of the self that I discuss in this book were situated in the region that is currently Belgium, between c. 1750 and c. 1830. This is the period when, according to many scholars, the ‘modern self’ was made. It is therefore an excellent period to interrogate whether we can trace changing conceptions of the self over time, as well as to questions the social differentiation of these conceptions. I have chosen to focus on Belgian archives for two reasons. First, its legal records are exceptionally rich. Thousands of interrogation

in Trials of the self
Maldon and the crisis of 1629
John Walter

) to coerce authority into action on their behalf. The tradition of riot was itself a constant point of reference in a more enduring relationship between rulers and ruled. The complex relationship between the poor and their governors, with the food riot as its epicentre, forms the subject of this chapter. Using legal records as a point of entry into the mental world of the seventeenth-century poor, this chapter attempts to recover, in the evidence of the food riot, popular attitudes to the law and the proper exercise of authority in early modern England. It does so

in Crowds and popular politics in early modern England
Gender, disorder, and urban amusement in eighteenth-century london

Each summer, a “perpetual fair” plagued eighteenth-century London, a city in transition overrun by a burgeoning population. City officials attempted to control disorderly urban amusement according to their own gendered understandings of order and morality. Frequently derided as locations of dangerous femininity disrupting masculine commerce, fairs withstood regulation attempts. Fairs were important in the lives of ordinary Londoners as sites of women’s work, sociability, and local and national identity formation. Rarely studied as vital to London’s modernization, urban fairs are a microcosm of London’s transforming society demonstrating how metropolitan changes were popularly contested. This study contributes to our understanding of popular culture and modernization in Britain during the formative years of its global empire. Drawing on legal records, popular literature, visual representations, and newspapers, this study places official discourse regarding urban amusement into the context of broader cultural understandings of gender and social hierarchies, commerce, public morality, and the urban environment. Entertainments, such as theatre, waxwork displays, and “monsters” are examined as cultural representations that disseminated ideas about “Britishness” and empire to a diverse audience. Such entertainment is often overlooked in works focused on elite culture or exhibits in the later era of World’s Fairs. This book demonstrates a thriving world of exhibition in the eighteenth century, which is a vital component to understanding later expositions. Examples drawn from literary and visual culture make this an engaging study for scholars and students of late Stuart and early Georgian Britain, urban and gender history, World’s Fairs, and cultural studies.

Localising madness in New Jersey
James E. Moran

The survival of a continuous run of documents relating to lunacy investigation law in New Jersey allows for a closer analysis of the dynamics of family members seeking redress by lunacy trial, as well as a more in-depth consideration of how concepts of madness and mental health were affected by the development of lunacy investigation law. In New Jersey, the legal process itself had direct effects on conceptualisations of madness. Moreover, a host of popular understandings of madness can be gleaned from the testimonials of the lunacy trials. These popular views about madness were partially shaped by the encounter with lunacy investigation law, but were also clearly part of much older traditional beliefs and practices. In New Jersey, the legal records demonstrate the primacy of this law in negotiating responses to madness well into the nineteenth century. The accounts of relatives and neighbours of the insane offer the historian a rare window onto practices around madness that did not necessarily form part of formal medical or institutional responses. These records also show how informal traditions of understanding and caring for the mad intersected with both legal and, later, institutional responses to madness.

in Madness on trial
Vagrancy laws and unauthorised mobility across colonial borders in New Zealand from 1877 to 1900
Catharine Coleborne

Historically, vagrancy is defined by the problem of those unwelcome transients who ‘stopped’ in places. Coerced to ‘move on’, these mobile people were among those whose mobility was not celebrated. The central objective of this chapter is to examine the regulation of mobility through its different registers in the legal records of nineteenth-century New Zealand vagrants. Specifically, the chapter provides an account of mobility witnessed through prosecutions for vagrancy. It argues that the ‘politics of mobility’ was produced through power relations: in this case, those relations of power inherent to the laws of a settler colonial mobility within a wider framework of Britain’s Pacific empire. There was one very specific difference which set the colonial legislation apart from its imperial model from the 1830s: the Vagrant Act contained a provision to prosecute vagrant Pakeha/Europeans who were viewed to be consorting with Māori or ‘aboriginal natives’. This chapter proposes that the vagrancy law was a ‘central mechanism’ of the colonial project, and integral to the creation of knowledge about people and populations, allocating control and constructing social difference.

in Empire and mobility in the long nineteenth century