The German Witch Trials

Thomas Robisheaux

in The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America

Published in print March 2013 | ISBN: 9780199578160
Published online May 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

The German Witch Trials

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  • European History
  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)



The German lands have long been known as the ‘heartland of the witch craze’. Of the estimated 90,000 individuals prosecuted for witchcraft in Europe, at least 30,000 and possibly as many as 45,000 came from the Germanies, roughly encompassed at the time by the Holy Roman Empire and nearby territories. The large body of scholarship that treats German witchcraft since the 1970s – scholarship which rests on exceptionally rich archival records of trials – lies at the centre of witchcraft studies in general. This article begins with a description of the German lands. It then discusses the chronology of German witch trials, witch hunts, the climate of fear, community dynamics, and laws against maleficium or ‘harmful magic’.

Keywords: German witchcraft; witchcraft studies; witch trials; witch hunts; Roman law; secular law

Article.  9224 words. 

Subjects: History ; European History ; Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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