Witch Hunt

Gary K. Waite, Karim Baccouche and Cheryl Petreman

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Witch Hunt

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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The subject of the late medieval and early modern witch persecution has grown incredibly since the advent of social history in the 1970s, and it now informs research across other fields of Renaissance and Reformation studies, most especially social history, the history of ideas, judicial history, and so on. The principal focus of late has been on regional histories of witch trials and on the local neighborly conflicts and suspicions and political and judicial circumstances of the region in question. The lack of central control over local courts and the long-standing reputations of the preliminary suspects have, therefore, been major foci of attention. Even so, what turned trials for maleficia (harmful magic) into large-scale witch prosecution was belief in a broad conspiracy of witches in league with the devil. Without such belief, reinforced, first, by the 15th-century reform and anti-heresy movements and, then, especially by the religious disputes of the Reformation era, witchcraft would have remained a matter of local jurisdiction and not subject to the often uncontrolled large-scale trials of the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Article.  21977 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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