14. Witchcraft and Magic

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Early Modern England: Politics, Religion, and Society under the Tudors and Stuarts (HIST 251)

In this lecture, Professor Wrightson discusses witchcraft and magic. He begins with the context of magic beliefs in this period, introducing the 'cunning folk' who had reputations as healers and were often consulted. He then considers the specific problem of witchcraft, the use of magic to do harm, and its identification by the late medieval church as a form of anti-Christian cult. He examines the distinctive nature of both witchcraft beliefs and the history of witchcraft prosecution in England (as compared with both Scotland and continental Europe), outlining the typical circumstances of a witchcraft accusation and what these might suggest about the rise and fall of concern with witchcraft. Finally he considers a number of unresolved problems in the history of witchcraft in England: the nature of the links between gender and witchcraft; the reasons behind the passage of the statutes defining witchcraft as a crime; and the exceptionally large number of trials conducted in the county of Essex.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Magic
08:56 - Chapter 2. Differences between Witchcraft in England and in Europe
19:26 - Chapter 3. Trials in England
35:05 - Chapter 4. Witchraft Statutes in Essex

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:

This course was recorded in Fall 2009.
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