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Witchcraft and the Community in France and French-speaking Europe

Robin Briggs

in Communities of Belief

Published in print July 1995 | ISBN: 9780198206033
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191676932 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198206033.003.0002
Witchcraft and the Community in France and French-speaking Europe

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More than three centuries have passed since Colbert and Louis XIV put an end to the legal persecution of witches in France in the 1670s, and by the same period trials had largely died out in the French-speaking regions beyond the eastern border of the kingdom proper. Over the past twenty years, the historiography of witchcraft has been transformed by a series of careful scholarly studies, many of them drawing on the techniques of social history and social anthropology. This essay examines witchcraft in French-speaking Europe to understand how judicial atrocities could occur in an age which did have aspirations towards rationality and humanity. This must lead us to consider witchcraft as a nexus of beliefs and practices rooted in local society, so that the persecution of witches is seen to derive from social tensions at local level at least as much as from judicial activity inspired by the ruling classes.

Keywords: France; French-speaking Europe; witchcraft; witches; beliefs; social tensions; persecution; ruling classes; social history; trials

Chapter.  23274 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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