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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 Witchcraft and 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