Potts, plots and politics: James I's <i>Daemonologie</i> and <i>The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches</i>

Stephen Pumfrey

in The Lancashire Witches

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780719062032
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700150 | DOI:
Potts, plots and politics: James I's Daemonologie and The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches

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This chapter re-examines the events of 1612, combining a close reading of Thomas Potts's 1613 book, “The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster,” with evidence from other areas to place it in a particular context: the politics of witch-hunting and royal patronage. The chapter sheds light not only on how the trials were constructed but also on how the evidence itself came into being. Potts's allusions to King James I and his writings on witchcraft are identified. There is no evidence of James's involvement but the trial does seem to have been, in part, an attempt to seek favor with the King. The account of methods and findings of the Lancashire witch trial based on the principles set out by the King in the 1590s are documented in convincing detail. James's ideas in turn were taken from the fantasies of satanic conspiracy developed by the continental demonologists of the past, which had until then made little impact in England. Therefore, the demonic pacts and witches' sabbats, which make their first English appearance in the Lancashire trials of 1612 owe more to the desire of Potts and the judges to vindicate their actions by appealing to royal authority than to any actual activities of the Lancashire witches.

Keywords: Thomas Potts; witch-hunting; royal patronage; King James I; Lancashire witch trial; royal authority

Chapter.  10066 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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