Witchcraft and Gender in Early Modern Europe

Alison Rowlands

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

 Witchcraft and Gender in             Early Modern Europe

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


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This article addresses the following questions: Why was the overall majority of those prosecuted for witchcraft in early modern Europe female? Was it because women were linked more readily than men with negative beliefs about the practice of harmful magic and association with the devil, or because systems of power in communities and courts worked against women rather than men? What sorts of women were accused and why, and did other factors – age or marital and socio-economic status – influence their vulnerability to accusation? Why did witch-hunting claim a significant proportion of male victims, and why did the gendering of witchcraft prosecutions vary geographically? The article explores answers to these questions in the context of debates about witchcraft and gender, which have been shaped in particular by the influence of feminism on witchcraft historiography.

Keywords: witchcraft prosecutions; witch-hunting; gender; feminism; witchcraft historiography

Article.  9271 words. 

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

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