The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America

ISBN : 9780198723639

Brian P. Levack
644 Pages
173 x 247 mm
Pub date
Nov 2014
Oxford Handbooks in History
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The essays in this Handbook, written by leading scholars working in the rapidly developing field of witchcraft studies, explore the historical literature regarding witch beliefs and witch trials in Europe and colonial America between the early fifteenth and early eighteenth centuries. During these years witches were thought to be evil people who used magical power to inflict physical harm or misfortune on their neighbours. Witches were also believed to have made pacts with the devil and sometimes to have worshipped him at nocturnal assemblies known as sabbaths. These beliefs provided the basis for defining witchcraft as a secular and ecclesiastical crime and prosecuting tens of thousands of women and men for this offence. The trials resulted in as many as fifty thousand executions. These essays study the rise and fall of witchcraft prosecutions in the various kingdoms and territories of Europe and in English, Spanish, and Portuguese colonies in the Americas. They also relate these prosecutions to the Catholic and Protestant reformations, the introduction of new forms of criminal procedure, medical and scientific thought, the process of state-building, profound social and economic change, early modern patterns of gender relations, and the wave of demonic possessions that occurred in Europe at the same time. The essays survey the current state of knowledge in the field, explore the academic controversies that have arisen regarding witch beliefs and witch trials, propose new ways of studying the subject, and identify areas for future research.


1. Magic and its Hazards in the Late Medieval West
2. Fifteenth-Century Witch Beliefs
3. Popular Witch Beliefs and Magical Practices
4. Demonologies
5. Sabbath Stories: Towards a New History of Witches' Assemblies
6. The Sceptical Tradition
7. Witchcraft in Early Modern Literature
8. Images of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe
9. The First Wave of Trials for Diabolical Witchcraft
10. The German Witch Trials
11. Witchcraft and the Local Communities: The Rhine-Moselle Region
12. Witchcraft Trials in France
13. Witchcraft and Wealth: The Case of the Netherlands
14. Witchcraft Prosecutions in Italy
15. Witchcraft in Iberia
16. Witchcraft Trials in England
17. Witchcraft in Scotland
18. Witchcraft in Poland: Milk and Malefice
19. Witch-Hunting in Early Modern Hungary
20. Witchcraft Trials in Russia: History and Historiography
21. Witchcraft Criminality and Witchcraft Research in the Nordic Countries
22. Witchcraft in British America
23. Merging Magical Traditions: Sorcery and Witchcraft in Spanish and Portuguese America
24. The Decline and End of Witchcraft Prosecutions
25. Witchcraft and Gender in Early Modern Europe
26. Witchcraft and the Law
27. Sixteenth-Century Religious Reform and the Witch-Hunts
28. On the Neuropsychological Origins of Witchcraft Cognition: the Geographic and Economic Variable
29. Politics, Sate Building, and Witch-Hunting
30. Science and Witchcraft
31. Medicine and Witchcraft
32. Demonic Possession, Exorcism, and Witchcraft

About the author: 

Brian P. Levack has published widely on English and Scottish legal history and the history of witchcraft prosecutions. His books on witchcraft include The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (3rd ed., 2006) and Witch-Hunting in Scotland: Law, Politics and Religion (2008). He is co-author of Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (1999) and the editor of The Witchcraft Sourcebook (2004).

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