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HIST 0290 Witches in Early Modern Europe

Early modern Europe saw some 40,000 people die because their neighbours or the authorities believed them to be consorts of the Devil or capable of harnessing unearthly powers to harm others. Belief in widespread witchcraft thus coexisted with the rationalities of the Renaissance and the devotion of the Reformations. This provides students with a fascinating and rewarding angle from which to dissect early modern societies, their elites and peoples, mindsets and emotions, as well as the powerful religious, social and economic tensions at work within them.  Guided by a remarkably rich set of modern scholarly responses, and insights from anthropological, literary, psychoanalytical, economic and gender studies, students can explore the huge variety and wealth of surviving contemporary sources from trial accounts through learned tracts and sermons to visual arts and plays.

Sample Topics

  • The Devil and his Witches
  • Witches and Evil-doing
  • Gender and Witchcraft
  • Possession and Exorcism
  • Cunning Folk and Healing
  • Witches and Anthropologists
  • Witches and Psychologists
  • Regional Studies


Introductory Reading

  • Gibson, M.,  Witchcraft and Society in England and America, 1550-1750. London: Continuum, 2003
  • Clark, S., Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997
  • Briggs, R., Witches & Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft Oxford: Blackwells, 2nd edn, 2002
  • Roper, L. Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Sexuality, and Religion in Early Modern Europe. London: Routledge, 1994
  • Oldridge, D., The Witchcraft Reader. London: Routledge, 2nd edn, 2008
  • Cameron, E., Enchanted Europe: Superstition, Reason, & Religion 1250-1750. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997
  • Levack, B.P. (ed.), The Witchcraft Sourcebook. London: Routledge, 2004
I found myself in this place
Down the cobbled streets of Shoe Lane stood a tall red building that I was told was once a shirt factory.  This place that once was for the purpose o...
Barney Dujua, Spring Semester 2009, Elmhurst College