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The Witch Hunt in East Anglia and Beyond

Third Year Module

Module Leader:Dr Louise Carter

Rationale and Content:

The witch-hunt in East Anglia was part of a wider phenomenon in which approximately 110,000 people, the majority women, were prosecuted for the crime of witchcraft across Europe between 1450 and 1750, and in which up to 60,000 people were executed. This module will explore this episode in Western history via a comparative analysis of the witch-hunt in East Anglia and the rest of England, Scotland, continental Europe and New England. It will examine contemporary beliefs about witches, including differences between elite demonology and popular belief; the impact of varying systems of justice, governance and religious belief on the size, scale and character of the hunt; the relationship of the hunt to broader socio-economic and religious changes; the profile of the accusers and the accused; the role of gender in the witch-hunt; the decline of the hunt and the continuation of belief, and the legacy of the witch-hunt. The module will enable students to explore the benefits and limitations of comparative history by examining one topic in depth across a broad geographic and chronological range. It will also enable students to evaluate the merits and drawbacks of a wide range of historiographical and methodological approaches including macro and micro histories, psycho-history, environmental history, national and trans-national histories, gender history, social history and cultural history. The rich and vibrant historiographical debates within this field will provide students with further opportunity to appreciate the contested nature of history and to hone their skills of analysis, synthesis, argument, debate and substantiation. The module will also introduce students to a wide range of visual and textual primary sources.

This module will take a comparative approach to studying the witch-hunt in East Anglia and the rest of England, Scotland, continental Europe and New England, exploring the features which were common or unique to each region, legal system and society, and questioning what this reveals.Topics will include the nature of early modern ideas about witches, witchcraft and the devil; comparisons between elite demonology and popular belief; the pre-conditions, causes, character and consequences of individual witch-hunts; the profile of accusers and the accused; the role of gender; variations in the legal systems under which the accused were tried, including the role of torture, and the impact this had on the size, scale, frequency, character and outcomes of trials; the religious, social, economic and political context of witch-hunts; the function of witch-hunts in the societies which created and sustained them; reasons for the decline of the witch-hunt; the continuation of belief and the legacy of the witch-hunt.In addition to engaging with a range of historiographical and methodological approaches and debates, students will also be introduced to a variety of primary source texts and visual images.

Learning and Teaching Strategies:

This module will be delivered through a combined weekly lecture andseminar plus tutorial support.Where appropriate supporting resources will also be made available online. Seminar sessionswillbe designed to encourage student participation and will support students in strengthening their skills of presentation, discussion,argument anddebate,and in evaluating, interpreting and using secondary and primary sources.




Weighting %


Submission Date

The Witch-Hunt in East Anglia and Beyond         

Oral Pres     


10 minutes       

As scheduled

Essay 40 2,000 words Week 10



2 hours

End of Semester Two

B. Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, (Harlow, 2006)

M. Gaskill, The Witch-Hunt: A Very Short Introduction, (Oxford, 2011)

J. Barry, (ed.), Advances in Witchcraft Historiography, (Basingstoke, 2007)

Further Reading

N.B. A full reading list is included in a module handbook which will be provided in the first week of teaching

L.Apps & A.Gow, Male Witches in Early Modern Europe. (Manchester, 2003)

R.Briggs, Witches and Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft, (London, 2002)

I.Bunn & G.Geis, A Trial of Witches: A Seventeenth-Century Witchcraft Prosecution, (London, 1997)

J.Callow & G.Scarre, Witchcraft and Magic in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Europe, (London, 2001)

S.Clark, Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe, (Oxford, 1997)

J.Durrant, Witchcraft, Gender and Society in Early Modern Germany, (Leiden, 2007)

M.Gibson (ed.) Witchcraft and Society in England and America, 1550-1750, (Cornell, London, 2003)

M.Gaskill, Crime and Mentalities in Early Modern England, (Cambridge, 2000).

M.Gaskill, Witchfinders: A Seventeenth Century English Tragedy, (London, 2006)

A.C.Kors & E.Peters (eds.), Witchcraft in Europe 1100-1700: A Documentary History, (London, 1995)

C.Koslofsky, Evenings Empire: A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe, (Cambridge, 2011)

C.Larner, Enemies of God: The Witch-Hunt in Scotland, (Edinburgh, 1981)

A.Macfarlane, Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England, (London, 1999)

A.McShane and G.Walker, (eds.), The Extraordinary and the Everyday in Early Modern England, (Basingstoke, 2011)

D.Oldridge (ed.), The Witchcraft Reader, 2nd edn., (Abingdon, 2008).

D.Purkiss, The Witch in History: Early Modern and Twentieth-Century Representations, (London, 1996)

L.Roper, Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany, (Yale, 2004)

L.Roper, The Witch in the Western Imagination, (Virginia, 2011)

A.Rowlands, Witchcraft and Masculinities in Early Modern Europe, (Basingstoke, 2009)

R.Schulte, Man as Witch: Male Witches in Central Europe, (Basingstoke, 2009)

J.A.Sharpe, Witchcraft in Early Modern England (Harlow, 2001)

K.Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in 16th- and 17th-Century England, (London, 1971)