Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England

Penguin UK
17
Free sample

Witchcraft, astrology, divination and every kind of popular magic flourished in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, from the belief that a blessed amulet could prevent the assaults of the Devil to the use of the same charms to recover stolen goods. At the same time the Protestant Reformation attempted to take the magic out of religion, and scientists were developing new explanations of the universe. Keith Thomas's classic analysis of beliefs held on every level of English society begins with the collapse of the medieval Church and ends with the changing intellectual atmosphere around 1700, when science and rationalism began to challenge the older systems of belief.
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About the author

Keith Thomas is a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was formerly President of Corpus Christi College and, before that, Professor of Modern History and Fellow of St John's College. RELIGION AND DECLINE OF MAGIC, his first book, won one of the two Wolfson Literary Awards for History in 1972. He was knighted in 1988 for services to the study of history.
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4.5
17 total
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin UK
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Published on
Jan 30, 2003
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Pages
880
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ISBN
9780141932408
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Body, Mind & Spirit / Magick Studies
History / Europe / Great Britain / General
History / Europe / Renaissance
History / Modern / 16th Century
History / Modern / 17th Century
History / Social History
Religion / History
Social Science / Folklore & Mythology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, now in its fourth edition, is the perfect resource for both students and scholars of the witch-hunts written by one of the leading names in the field. For those starting out in their studies of witch-beliefs and witchcraft trials, Brian Levack provides a concise survey of this complex and fascinating topic, while for more seasoned scholars the scholarship is brought right up to date. This new edition includes the most recent research on children, gender, male witches and demonic possession as well as broadening the exploration of the geographical distribution of witch prosecutions to include recent work on regions, cities and kingdoms enabling students to identify comparisons between countries.

Now fully integrated with Brian Levack’s The Witchcraft Sourcebook, there are links to the sourcebook throughout the text, pointing students towards key primary sources to aid them in their studies. The two books are drawn together on a new companion website with supplementary materials for those wishing to advance their studies, including an extensive guide to further reading, a chronology of the history of witchcraft and an interactive map to show the geographical spread of witch-hunts and witch trials across Europe and North America.

A long-standing favourite with students and lecturers alike, this new edition of The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe will be essential reading for those embarking on or looking to advance their studies of the history of witchcraft

They sacrifice their owne children to the divell before baptisme, holding them up in the aire unto him, and then thrust a needle into their braines … They use incestuous adulterie with spirits … They eate the flesh and drinke the bloud of men and children openlie … They kill mens cattell … They bewitch mens corne … They ride and flie in the aire, bring stormes, make tempests … They use venerie with a divell called Incubus and have children by them, which become the best witches …
In 1584, when there were few who would even defend witches against these charges, Reginald Scot went one step further. He actually set out to prove that witches did not and could not exist! King James later found Scot's opinion so heretical that he ordered all copies of his book to be burned. But so rich and full of data on the charges against witches, on witch trials and on the actual practice of the black arts was Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft that it remained a much-used source throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and is still one of the few primary sources for the study of witchcraft today.
At the heart of Scot's book are stories and charges pulled from the writers of the Inquisition about the supposed nature of witches. Scot believed that the utter absurdity of the facts would be enough to stop belief in witchcraft forever. But he also goes on to give opinions of medical authorities, interviews with those convicted of witchcraft, and details about the two-faced practices of those in charge of the inquisitions to show even further why the charges of witchcraft were simply not true. In later chapters Scot details the other side of the question through a study of the black arts that are not purely imaginary. He discusses poisoners, jugglers, conjurers, charmers, soothsayers, figure-casters, dreamers, alchemists, and astrologers and, in turn, sets down the actual practices of each group and shows how the acts depend not upon the devil but upon either trickery or skill. In the process, many of the magician's secrets and much other folk and professional lore of the time is made available to the reader of today.
Shortly after the Spanish Inquisition, directly in the wake of Sprenger and Kramer's Malleus Maleficarum, during the great upsurge of witch trials in Britain, Scot was a direct witness to the witchmonger in one of witch-hunting's bloodiest eras. Whatever your interest in witchcraft — either historical, psychological, or sympathetic — Scot, in his disproof, tells you much more about the subject than the many, many contemporary writers on the other side of the question.
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