The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe

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"Brian Levack's aims are to provide a coherent introduction to the subject and contribute to an ongoing scholarly debate.  In both these aims - but particularly in the former - he has succeeded magnificently. ...it will serve as a standard introduction to the topic for many years to come." So wrote Brian Easlea in the English Historical Review of this famous book when it first appeared in 1987.  It focuses on the great age of witch-hunting in Europe (and also in colonial America), between 1450 and ...
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Overview

"Brian Levack's aims are to provide a coherent introduction to the subject and contribute to an ongoing scholarly debate.  In both these aims - but particularly in the former - he has succeeded magnificently. ...it will serve as a standard introduction to the topic for many years to come." So wrote Brian Easlea in the English Historical Review of this famous book when it first appeared in 1987.  It focuses on the great age of witch-hunting in Europe (and also in colonial America), between 1450 and 1750.  In these years more than 100,000 people - most of them women - were prosecuted by secular and ecclesiastical courts across Europe for allegedly practising harmful magic and worshipping the Devil.  The book sets out to answer the major questions that this strange and terrible phenomenon evokes today: 
• Why did the trials take place? 
• Why did they suddenly proliferate in Europe at this time?  How many trials were there, and where, and what were their outcomes? 
• Why were more witches prosecuted in some countries than others? 
• Who were the accused and who were their accusers? 
• Why, after more than 200 years of vigorous activity, did the trials eventually dwindle away? 
• What do they tell us about the social, economic and political history of early modern Europe - and, in particular, the position of women within it? In this timely Second Edition, Brian Levack now incorporates the latest scholarship on the subject.  The general lines of his argument remain as before, but numerous new regional and local studies (many on the periphery of Europe) havemade possible a fuller treatment of the witch-hunt, and a more detailed analysis of its chronological and geographical distribution.  He also includes new material on the development of witch-beliefs in the Middle Ages; on the social dimension of witchcraft; and on the connection between witch-hunting and the Protestant and Catholic Reformations.  The notes and bibliography have been greatly expanded, and the book has been entirely reset. "(He) has produced a valuable synthesis of the materials currently available, and his text will prove a lifeline to many students."Martin Ingram, European History Quarterly "Now, at last, with Brian Levack's careful, scholarly and critical survey, a thoroughly reliable introduction to the whole literature is available.  Levack appears to have read every significant work, both new and old and in most relevant languages, and has judiciously sifted out the information, pondered on it, and come up with balanced and sensible verdicts."Henry Kamen, History Today "Levack's logical sorting of a prodigious amount of material has resulted in one of the most informative and comprehensive works of its genre."Hans Sebald, American Historical Review Brian P. Levack is Professor of History in the University of Texas at Austin.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Discusses the intellectual and legal foundations of the witch- hunts, during which over 100,000 people, mostly women, were prosecuted; the impact of the Reformation; the social context, dynamics, chronology, and geography of witch-hunting; the phenomenon's decline; and the survival and revival of witchcraft. B&w illustrations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780582491236
  • Publisher: Longman Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/1987
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 267

Meet the Author

Brian Levack grew up in a family of teachers in the New York metropolitan area. From his father, a professor of French history, he acquired a love for studying the past, and he knew from an early age that he too would become a historian. He received his B.A. from Fordham University in 1965 and his Ph.D. from Yale in 1970. In graduate school he became fascinated by the history of the law and the interaction between law and politics, interests that he has maintained throughout his career. In 1969 he joined the History Department of the University of Texas at Austin, where he is now the John Green Regents Professor in History. The winner of several teaching awards, Levack teaches a wide variety of courses on British and European history, legal history, and the history of witchcraft. For eight years he served as the chair of his department, a rewarding but challenging assignment that made it difficult for him to devote as much time as he wished to his teaching and scholarship. His books include The Civil Lawyers in England, 1603-1641: A Political Study (1973), The Formation of the British State: England, Scotland and the Union, 1603-1707 (1987), and The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (1987 and 1995), which has been translated into eight languages.

His study of the development of beliefs about witchcraft in Europe over the course of many centuries gave him the idea of writing a textbook on Western civilization that would illustrate a broader set of encounters between different cultures, societies, and ideologies. While writing the book, Levack and his two sons built a house on property that he and his wife, Nancy, own in the Texas hill country. Hefound that the two projects presented similar challenges: it was easy to draw up the design, but far more difficult to execute it. When not teaching, writing, or doing carpentry work, Levack runs along the jogging trails of Austin, and he has recently discovered the pleasures of scuba diving.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
2 The intellectual foundations 30
3 The legal foundations 74
4 The impact of the Reformation 109
5 The social context 134
6 The dynamics of witch-hunting 175
7 The chronology and geography of witch-hunting 204
8 The decline and end of witch-hunting 253
9 Witch-hunting after the trials 289
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