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The essays in this Handbook, written by leading scholars working in the rapidly developing field of witchcraft studies, explore the historical literature regarding witch beliefs and witch trials in Europe and colonial America between the early fifteenth and early eighteenth centuries. During these years witches were thought to be evil people who used magical power to inflict physical harm or misfortune on their neighbours. Witches were also believed to have made pacts with the devil and sometimes to have worshipped him at nocturnal assemblies known as sabbaths. These beliefs provided the basis for defining witchcraft as a secular and ecclesiastical crime and prosecuting tens of thousands of women and men for this offence. The trials resulted in as many as fifty thousand executions.
These essays study the rise and fall of witchcraft prosecutions in the various kingdoms and territories of Europe and in English, Spanish, and Portuguese colonies in the Americas. They also relate these prosecutions to the Catholic and Protestant reformations, the introduction of new forms of criminal procedure, medical and scientific thought, the process of state-building, profound social and economic change, early modern patterns of gender relations, and the wave of demonic possessions that occurred in Europe at the same time. The essays survey the current state of knowledge in the field, explore the academic controversies that have arisen regarding witch beliefs and witch trials, propose new ways of studying the subject, and identify areas for future research.
Brian P. Levack has published widely on English and Scottish legal history and the history of witchcraft prosecutions. His books on witchcraft include The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (3rd ed., 2006) and Witch-Hunting in Scotland: Law, Politics and Religion (2008). He is co-author of Witchcraftand Magic in Europe: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (1999) and the editor of The Witchcraft Sourcebook (2004).
Table of Contents
Introduction, Brian P. Levack Part I: Witch Beliefs 1. Magic and its Hazards in the Late Medieval West, Richard Kieckhefer 2. Fifteenth-Century Witch Beliefs, Hans Peter Broedel 3. Popular Witch Beliefs and Magical Practices, Edward Bever 4. Demonologies, Gerhild Scholz Williams 5. Sabbath Stories: Towards a New History of Witches' Assemblies, Willem de Blecourt 6. The Sceptical Tradition, Walter Stephens 7. Witchcraft in Early Modern Literature, Diane Purkiss 8. Images of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe, Charles Zika Part II: Witchcraft Prosecutions 9. The First Wave of Trials for Diabolical Witchcraft, Richard Kieckhefer 10. The German Witch Trials, Thomas Robisheaux 11. Witchcraft and the Local Communities: The Rhine-Moselle Region, Robin Briggs 12. Witchcraft Trials in France, William Monter 13. Witchcraft and Wealth: The Case of the Netherlands, Hans de Waardt 14. Witchcraft Prosecutions in Italy, Tamar Herzig 15. Witchcraft in Iberia, William Monter 16. Witchcraft Trials in England, Malcolm Gaskill 17. Witchcraft in Scotland, Julian Goodare 18. Witchcraft in Poland: Milk and Malefice, Michael Ostling 19. Witch-Hunting in Early Modern Hungary, Ildiko Sz. Kristof 20. Witchcraft Trials in Russia: History and Historiography, Valerie Kivelson 21. Witchcraft Criminality and Witchcraft Research in the Nordic Countries, Rune Blix Hagen 22. Witchcraft in British America, Richard Godbeer 23. Merging Magical Traditions: Sorcery and Witchcraft in Spanish and Portuguese America, Iris Gareis 24. The Decline and End of Witchcraft Prosecutions, Brian P. Levack Part III: Themes of Witchcraft Research 25. Witchcraft and Gender in Early Modern Europe, Alison Rowlands 26. Witchcraft and the Law, Brian P. Levack 27. Sixteenth-Century Religious Reform and the Witch-Hunts, Gary K. Waite 28. On the Neuropsychological Origins of Witchcraft Cognition: the Geographic and Economic Variable, Oscar Di Simplicio 29. Politics, Sate Building, and Witch-Hunting, Johannes Dillinger 30. Science and Witchcraft, Peter Elmer 31. Medicine and Witchcraft, Peter Elmer 32. Demonic Possession, Exorcism, and Witchcraft, Sarah Ferber