Medicine and Witchcraft

Peter Elmer

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

 Medicine and           Witchcraft

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)
  • History of Medicine


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This article discusses the role played by medicine and the medical sciences in shaping and making sense of early modern witchcraft. It suggests that despite the interest of members of the healing arts in witchcraft and their engagement in both practical and theoretical aspects of the subject, major historical studies of the relationship between medicine and witchcraft are thin on the ground. There have been few case studies of individual physicians in this respect and only fleeting accounts of the attitude of medical practitioners as a whole to the phenomenon of witchcraft. The answer to this may lie in the tendency of historians to conflate the contribution of doctors to the witchcraft debate with that of scientists or natural philosophers given that the former, particularly those trained at universities, frequently shared a similar education and approach to nature and were themselves often to be found at the forefront of scientific advance in the early modern period.

Keywords: witchcraft; medicine; medical sciences

Article.  7073 words. 

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

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