The Decline and End of Witchcraft Prosecutions

Brian P. Levack

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 Decline and End of Witchcraft             Prosecutions

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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Prosecutions and executions for the crime of witchcraft declined and eventually came to an end during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The decline occurred in all European countries where witch-hunts had taken place, and in the colonies of Spain, Portugal, and England where ecclesiastical or temporal authorities had brought witches to trial. The decline was marked by an increasing reluctance to prosecute witches, the acquittal of many who were tried, the reversal of convictions on appeal, and eventually the repeal of the laws that had authorized the prosecutions. This article discusses patterns of decline; repeal of witchcraft laws; and the reasons why the trials came to an end. It concludes with suggestions for future research.

Keywords: witch trials; witchcraft prosecutions; Europe; colonies; witchcraft laws

Article.  9197 words. 

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

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