Witchcraft in early modern Europe : studies in culture and belief


Witchcraft in early modern Europe : studies in culture and belief

edited by Jonathan Barry, Marianne Hester, and Gareth Roberts

(Past and present publications)

Cambridge University Press, 1996

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Includes bibliographical references and index



This important collection brings together both established figures and new researchers to offer fresh perspectives on the ever-controversial subject of the history of witchcraft. Using Keith Thomas's Religion and the Decline of Magic as a starting point, the contributors explore the changes of the last twenty-five years in the understanding of early modern witchcraft, and suggest new approaches, especially concerning the cultural dimensions of the subject. Witchcraft cases must be understood as power struggles, over gender and ideology as well as social relationships, with a crucial role played by alternative representations. Witchcraft was always a contested idea, never fully established in early modern culture but much harder to dislodge than has usually been assumed. The essays are European in scope, with examples from Germany, France, and the Spanish expansion into the New World, as well as a strong core of English material.


  • 1. Introduction: Keith Thomas and the problem of witchcraft: explanations and representations of witchcraft since Religion and the Decline of Magic Jonathan Barry
  • Part I. The Crime and its History: 2. 'Many reasons why': Witchcraft and the problem of multiple explanation Robin Briggs
  • 3. 'Witchcraft Studies' in Austria, Germany and Switzerland Wolfgang Behringer
  • 4. State-building and witch-hunting in early modern Europe Brian Levack
  • Part II. Witchcraft and Religion: 5. The Devil in the Old World and the New Fernando Cervantes
  • 6. 'Saints or sorcerers': Quakerism, demonology and the decline of witchcraft in seventeenth-century England Peter Elmer
  • Part III. The Making of a Witch: 7. The descendants of Circe: witches and Renaissance fictions Gareth Roberts
  • 8. Witchcraft and fantasy in early modern Germany Lyndal Roper
  • 9. The Devil in East Anglia: the Matthew Hopkins trials reconsidered Jim Sharpe
  • Part IV. Witchcraft and the Social Environment: 10. Witchcraft in early modern Kent: stereotypes and the background to accusations Malcolm Gaskill
  • 11. Patriarchal reconstuction and witch-hunting Marianne Hester
  • Part V. Decline: 12. Witchcraft repealed Ian Bostridge
  • 13. On the continuation of witchcraft Willem de Blecourt.

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