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.
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.
Hutchinson and witchcraft:
An historical essay concerning
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
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
berbos for things: to make birds leave a newly-sown field, or to make
dogs go away,’ he explains. ‘How about keeping eagles away from the lambs?’
I ask, thinking of spells I have read in folklorists’ collections. ‘For that
you need a gun,’ he says, deadpan.
While the last formal accusations of
witchcraft in Italy took place around 1750, and by the early nineteenth
century Enlightenment discourses had relegated supernatural
This book situates witchcraft drama within its cultural and intellectual context,
highlighting the centrality of scepticism and belief in witchcraft to the genre.
It is argued that these categories are most fruitfully understood not as static
and mutually exclusive positions within the debate around witchcraft, but as
rhetorical tools used within it. In drama, too, scepticism and belief are vital
issues. The psychology of the witch character is characterised by a combination
of impious scepticism towards God and credulous belief in the tricks of the
witch’s master, the devil. Plays which present plausible depictions of witches
typically use scepticism as a support: the witch’s power is subject to important
limitations which make it easier to believe. Plays that take witchcraft less
seriously present witches with unrestrained power, an excess of belief which
ultimately induces scepticism. But scepticism towards witchcraft can become a
veneer of rationality concealing other beliefs that pass without sceptical
examination. The theatrical representation of witchcraft powerfully demonstrates
its uncertain status as a historical and intellectual phenomenon; belief and
scepticism in witchcraft drama are always found together, in creative tension
with one another.
The Malleus Maleficarum is one of the best-known treatises dealing with the problem of what to do with witches. Written in 1487 by a Dominican inquisitor, Heinrich Institoris, following his failure to prosecute a number of women for witchcraft, it is in many ways a highly personal document, full of frustration at official complacency in the face of a spiritual threat, as well as being a practical guide for law-officers who have to deal with a cunning, dangerous enemy. Combining theological discussion, illustrative anecdotes and useful advice for those involved in suppressing witchcraft, the treatise's influence on witchcraft studies has been extensive. The only previous translation into English, that by Montague Summers in 1928, is full of inaccuracies. It is written in a style almost unreadable nowadays, and is unfortunately coloured by Institoris's personal agenda. This new edited translation, with an introductory essay setting witchcraft, Institoris and the Malleus into clear English, corrects Summers' mistakes and offers an unvarnished version of what Institoris actually wrote. It will undoubtedly become the standard translation of this controversial late medieval text.
history as a means of unravelling such mysteries as the European witch-hunts
has been – and was already being in the early 1970s – made by a number of
scholars, and usually, although not always, brought to this question a
measure of subtle and helpful insights. Confidence was high that the lessons
derived from fieldwork in living traditions of witchcraft might shed light
on the seemingly irretrievable historical situation of early modern Europe