Chapter

Introduction: the Lancashire witches in historical context

James Sharpe

in The Lancashire Witches

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780719062032
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700150 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719062032.003.0001
Introduction: the Lancashire witches in historical context

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This chapter provides an introduction to the Lancashire witches in the context of history, giving an outline of what happened in 1612 and 1633–34. Lancashire was a county where witchcraft was considered a recurring problem. It was not only the location of important witch trials in 1612 and of an incipiently major witch-scare in 1633–34, but also an area where a variety of witch beliefs flourished. The Lancashire prosecutions of 1612 and 1633 are important in demonstrating how witch-beliefs developed. This chapter discusses two initial sets of issues related to the Lancashire witches. The first is the notion that there was a distinctive English witchcraft, which is contrasted with a more exotic and demonically driven continental witchcraft. This idea has been severely challenged because it is intrinsically implausible to posit the existence of a unified continental witchcraft. Secondly, close reading of accounts of witch trials between the mid sixteenth and early eighteenth centuries suggest the anxiety of the time that a theologically correct view of witchcraft be spread among the populace. Furthermore, the chapter attempts to explain why the witch trials occurred, particularly those of 1612.

Keywords: Lancashire witches; witch-scare; Lancashire prosecution; unified continental witchcraft; English witchcraft

Chapter.  9174 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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