Witchcraft and the Law

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

Witchcraft and the Law

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)



The law as it applied to witchcraft has often been viewed as a system of repression because witchcraft was considered a religious crime, and because many of the courts that prosecuted witches used torture to extort confessions from them. This article examines the role played by the law – both the written law and the officials who administered it – in restricting the number of prosecutions, curbing the use of torture in witchcraft cases, introducing new rules of evidence in witchcraft trials, and playing the leading role in ending the trials.

Keywords: witchcraft prosecutions; religious crime; torture; witchcraft trials; law

Article.  8584 words. 

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

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