The study of witchcraft accusations in Europe during the period after the end of the witch trials is still in its infancy. Witches were scratched in England, swum in Germany, beaten in the Netherlands and shot in France. The continued widespread belief in witchcraft and magic in nineteenth- and twentieth-century France has received considerable academic attention. The book discusses the extent and nature of witchcraft accusations in the period and provides a general survey of the published work on the subject for an English audience. It explores the presence of magical elements in everyday life during the modern period in Spain. The book provides a general overview of vernacular magical beliefs and practices in Italy from the time of unification to the present, with particular attention to how these traditions have been studied. By functioning as mechanisms of social ethos and control, narratives of magical harm were assured a place at the very heart of rural Finnish social dynamics into the twentieth century. The book draws upon over 300 narratives recorded in rural Finland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that provide information concerning the social relations, tensions and strategies that framed sorcery and the counter-magic employed against it. It is concerned with a special form of witchcraft that is practised only amongst Hungarians living in Transylvania.
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.
Historians who have written about Francis Hutchinson have tended to study a small part of his life and his literary output as part of larger studies on other subjects. Bishop Hutchinson is thus many things to many historians. To some he represents the archetypal eighteenth-century Protestant bibliophile, to others the type of clerical, social and economic improver and antiquarian that flourished in Ireland in the early eighteenth century. Despite this interest in his life in Ireland, most academics have been drawn to his life and work on account of his seminal, sceptical witchcraft tract, the Historical essay, published in London in 1718. Their interpretations of why Hutchinson rejected traditional witchcraft beliefs in this book reflect the changing face of the historiography of decline in educated belief in witchcraft. The book suggests that Hutchinson dedicated his life firstly to protecting the position of the established Church within society, and secondly to forging and maintaining the political hegemony of the Whig and Hanoverian regime, first in England and then in Ireland. It is suggested that the way he defended these ideals and institutions was in the manner of a moderate, principled, career-minded, Latitudinarian-Whig reformer. Furthermore, it was this outlook that fuelled his third main concern in life, the social and economic improvement of Ireland.
5 Hutchinson and witchcraft: An historical essay concerning witchcraft (1718) Hutchinson’s famously sceptical witchcraft text, the Historical essay (1718), has long enjoyed an intimate connection with the historiography of the decline of educated belief in witchcraft. This connection has been renewed in recent years, in particular by the work of James Sharpe and Ian Bostridge.1 Bostridge contends that by the end of the second decade of the eighteenth century, witchcraft became a marginal concern for mainstream educated culture because it was no longer needed
This book is the first published edition of a previously unknown manuscript treatise on the theological underpinnings of witchcraft belief in late sixteenth-century England. The treatise comprises a point-by-point response to the most famous early modern English work on witchcraft, Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584). It was written by a personal friend of Scot’s, and internal evidence demonstrates that it offers critical feedback on a now-lost draft version of the Discoverie prior to the publication of that book, providing a rebuttal to Scot’s arguments in much greater detail than any other extant text, and showing precisely why his views were so controversial in their own time. The treatise is also a highly original and sophisticated theoretical defence of witchcraft belief in its own right, and the author’s position is based on detailed scriptural and theological arguments which are not found in any other English writings on the subject. The treatise’s arguments connect witchcraft belief to Reformed Protestant ideas about conscience, the devil, and the correct interpretation of scripture, and demonstrate the broader significance of witchcraft belief within this intellectual framework. It thereby provides evidence that the debate on witchcraft, as represented by the more dogmatic and formulaic printed works on the subject, shied away from the underlying issues which the author of the treatise (in a work never intended for publication) tackles explicitly.
6 Witchcraft in the Restoration By comparison with the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods, there were very few prosecutions and executions for witchcraft during the Restoration. But despite the decline in formal indictments and convictions, lively debate about witchcraft began again during the civil war and continued, and if anything intensified, during the Restoration. Witchcraft belief, at least at the level of educated debate, had become divorced from the issue of witchcraft persecution.1 Belief in the existence of witches as agents of the devil had
2 Witchcraft in Elizabethan drama Witchcraft is more frequently associated with the Jacobean theatre than the Elizabethan, despite the fact that, outside the theatre, witchcraft persecution in England seems to have peaked in the 1580s and 1590s. This focus on the later period is partly a matter of modern perceptions and the canonical status of Macbeth, whose witches have overshadowed those in earlier plays in many critical discussions. However, it is also the case that witchcraft in Elizabethan drama is curiously absent, even in those plays in which it is
3 Witchcraft in Jacobean drama The accession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne was once seen as the beginning of a period of severe witchcraft persecution in England. Largely based on the published opinions of the new monarch, this view always had its critics – an early defender of James’s record was the historian of witchcraft and Shakespeare scholar George Lyman Kittredge – and it has since been discredited on the basis of the more empirical approach pioneered by C. L. Ewen and developed further by Alan Macfarlane.1 James’s public attitude to
TMM5 8/30/03 5:40 PM Page 91 5 Witchcraft: the formation of belief – part one Ambrosius de Vignate was a well-respected magistrate and legal scholar, a doctor of both canon and civil law, who lectured at Padua, Bologna, and Turin between 1452 and 1468. On several occasions he participated in the trials of accused witches: he tells us that he had heard men and women alike confess – both freely and under torture – that they belonged to the sect of witches (“secta mascorum seu maleficorum”) and that they, and others whom they implicated, had done all sorts of
The continued widespread belief in witchcraft and magic in nineteenth- and twentieth-century France has received considerable academic attention. Yet little of the relevant work has been published in English and, moreover, no thematic historical survey has yet been attempted to trace the continued social significance of witchcraft over the two centuries. As well as discussing the extent and nature of