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:
Introduction: the Lancashire witches in historical context

More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


Show Summary Details


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)

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.