Magic and Superstition in Europe: A Concise History from Antiquity to the Present / Edition 1

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The only comprehensive, single-volume survey of magic available, this compelling book traces the history of magic, witchcraft, and superstitious practices such as popular spells or charms from antiquity to the present day. Focusing especially on Europe in the medieval and early modern eras, Michael Bailey also explores the ancient Near East, classical Greece and Rome, and the spread of magical systems_particularly modern witchcraft or Wicca_from Europe to the United States. He examines how magic and superstition have been defined in various historical eras and how these constructions have changed over time. He considers the ways in which specific categories of magic have been condemned, and how those identified as magicians or witches have been persecuted and prosecuted in various societies. Although conceptions of magic have changed over time, the author shows how magic has almost always served as a boundary marker separating socially acceptable actions from illicit ones, and more generally the known and understood from the unknown and occult.

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Editorial Reviews

Church History
Bailey lays the groundwork for fruitful classroom discussions.
H. C. Erik Midelfort
Michael Bailey has written a sweeping, broadly accessible account of magic, religion, and 'superstition' over the past two thousand years. He has not only read deeply but also pondered the way in which our traditions have stigmatized especially those beliefs and practices that seem most closely threatening to us. This book deserves to be widely read.
Svitlana P. Kukharenko
Bailey's style of writing is captivating and the results of his archival research are impressive...useful guide for a wide audience and for any folklorists dealing with the topic of magic and superstition in cultural context.
Ritual and Witchcraft Magic
Michael D. Bailey's Magic and Superstition in Europe: A Concise History from Antiquity to the Present successfully accomplishes the author's expressed aim of convincing readers that magic has always been, and continues to be, an important aspect of European history. Based on an impressive command of the vast (and constantly expanding) scholarship of the history of magic, the book skillfully weaves together seemingly disparate, and chronologically distant, stages in the history of Europe's magical traditions into intrinsically related parts of a coherent, comprehensive narrative. It should be welcomed as a masterful survey of major trends in European intellectual and religious history, explored through the prism of common magical traditions and (especially) learned magical practices and attitudes toward the occult.
July 2009 The Catholic Historical Review
An ambitious survey of the history of magic from the ancient world to the modern West. The broad scope of the book gives readers a useful comparative perspective on how different Western societies viewed and categorized magic and superstition, and how magical traditions changed and adapted to different historical circumstances. . . . Bailey . . . shows admirable command and understanding of a wide range of material.
Volume 40.1 European History Quarterly
This is a reliable, enjoyable and admirably lucid book from which students and experts alike will benefit.
Stuart Clark
Michael Bailey has chosen a subject of enormous significance in European civilization—its dark but alluring ‘other.’ Magic and superstition have always been essential to the drawing of cultural and social boundaries and to perceptions of backwardness and modernity. Wisely declining to give them abstract definitions, Bailey allows them to appear instead as categories of separation and refusal in many different historical contexts. This is an ambitious but conceptually secure study.
Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture
Bailey lays the groundwork for fruitful classroom discussions.
Library Journal

Magic, witchcraft, and superstition have inspired writers and readers for centuries. Much of the literature on these phenomena has been sensational or biased, but a growing body of quality scholarly work has quietly accumulated over the past decades. Bailey (history, Iowa State Univ., Ames; Historical Dictionary of Witchcraft) provides a breathtaking yet meticulous synthesis of scholarship covering two millennia, from antiquity to the present day. Though its focus is Europe, the book embraces the United States, classical Greece and Rome, and the Near East as well. It concentrates especially on how the concepts, beliefs, and practices of magic and witchcraft-and their practitioners-have transformed one another over this vast period. This work, which supersedes all previous works on the topic, includes few endnotes in the interest of readability, but the bibliography for each section will be of some assistance to those wishing to read further on particular topics. Recommended for all public and academic collections.
—Dan Harms

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742533875
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/28/2006
  • Series: Critical Issues in World and International History Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 796,739
  • Product dimensions: 5.91 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael D. Bailey is assistant professor of history at Iowa State University.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction: Roots in the Ancient World Chapter 2 The Rise of Christianity and Early Medieval Europe to the Year 1000 Chapter 3 Varieties of Magic in the High and Late Middle Ages, 1000-1500 Chapter 4 The Medieval Condemnation of Magic, 1000-1500 Chapter 5 Witchcraft and Witch-Hunting in the Early Modern Period, 1500-1800 Chapter 6 From Renaissance to Enlightenment, 1450-1800 Chapter 7 Magic in the Modern West from 1800

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