Witchcraft: A History in Thirteen Trials
A lively and immersive global history of witchcraft which shows its evolution from the Middle Ages to the present day and shines a light on the stories of the victims, told in thirteen trials.
Witch trials have occurred throughout history, across all continents, right up to the present day. But witchcraft and attitudes towards it and its practitioners has changed according to place and time and the interests and politics of the day.
This book uses thirteen significant trials to explore the history of witchcraft and witch hunts. As well as investigating some of the most famous trials from the Middle Ages to the 18th century, such as Salem, it takes us in new and surprising directions. It shows how witchcraft was decriminalised in the 18th century, only to be reimagined by Romantic radicals. We learn how it evolved from being seen as a threat to Christianity to being seen as gendered persecution, how witchcraft accusations of indigenous peoples stoked anger against colonial rule and how the word “witch” has re-entered political language today.
Significantly, the book tells the stories of the victims of witch trials – those women, such as Helena Scheuberin, Elizabeth Clarke and Joan Wright – whose stories have too often been overshadowed by those of the powerful men, such as King James VI and I and “Witchfinder General” Matthew Hopkins, who hounded them.
While the book is a history of witchcraft, the subject cannot be consigned to the history books. Hundreds of people, mostly women, are tried and killed as witches every year in Indonesia, the Indian subcontinent and Africa as well as occasionally Europe and the Americas. ‘WITCH HUNT!’ is a term as common in our language today as ever it was, and witches are still on trial across the world.