We are so, so pleased to be able to share the news that Professor Marion Gibson’s illuminating Witchcraft: A History in Thirteen Trials has been snapped up by Simon & Schuster UK. UK & Commonwealth rights were acquired by senior non-fiction editor Frances Jessop from Joanna Swainson. This 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. Witchcraft is set to be published in 2023.
Frances said: “‘Witches’ and ‘witch trials’ summon images of Macbeth and The Crucible, of persecuted women in the Middle Ages dunked in water. But how often do we hear the words ‘witch hunt’ in the media? As Marion demonstrates witchcraft and the persecution of ‘witches’ is not something we have left in the distant past. I was captivated by Marion’s storytelling and shocked by how recent and relevant to our world so much of it still is. Above all, it’s time to hear the victims’ stories. I am delighted to be publishing this brilliant book.”
Marion said: “Stories about witches show us who we’re afraid of – or who our leaders think we should be afraid of – as a society. In the last twenty years the word ‘witch’ has come back into use as an insult and a claim. Across the world actual witch trials are spreading. We need to know the history of witch trials, listen to the ‘witches’ and understand what that long history of persecution means today. I’m so happy that Frances and Simon & Schuster loved the book and wanted to bring this important story to a wide readership.”
Witch hunts and their subsequent 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 will use 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 will take us in new and surprising directions. It will show us how witchcraft was decriminalised in the 18th century, only to be reimagined by the 1780s Romantic radicals. We will learn how it evolved from being seen as a threat to Christianity to being seen as gendered persecution, and how trials against chieftains in Africa stoked anger against colonial rule.
Significantly, the book will tell the stories of the victims – those women, such as Helena Scheuberin 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.
Marion Gibson writes about witches and magic in history. She’s been interested in witches for over thirty years, since she read the words of women accused of witchcraft in Elizabethan England. Why were they accused of crimes they didn’t commit? And why did they confess?
Marion’s books tell the stories of these women and the men accused alongside them, and she explores the wider history of witch trials, folklore, magical and pagan beliefs and things that go bump in the night. She’s a Professor and teaches at Exeter University in south west England where her students read everything from medieval witch-hunting manuals to Gothic novels, and trial records to Harry Potter.
You can read the Bookbrunch article here.