Witchcraft History in 13 Trials

Salem, King James VI, Malleus Maleficarum. The world of witch hunts and witch trials sounds antiquated, relics of an unenlightened and brutal age. However, ‘witch hunt’ is heard often in the present-day media, and the misogyny it is rooted in is all too familiar today. A woman was prosecuted under the 1735 Witchcraft Act as recently as 1944.

Drawing on her recent book using thirteen significant trials to explore the history of witchcraft and witch hunts. As well as investigating some of the most famous trials from the middle ages to the 18th century, it takes us in new and surprising directions. It shows us how witchcraft was decriminalised in the 18th century, only to be reimagined by the 1780s Romantic radicals. We will learn how it evolved from being seen as a threat to Christianity to perceived as gendered persecution, and how trials against chieftains in Africa stoked anger against colonial rule.

Significantly, the the talk tells the stories of the victims – women, such as Helena Scheuberin and Joan Wright – whose stories have too often been overshadowed by those of the powerful men, such as King James VI and I and “Witchfinder General” Matthew Hopkins, who hounded them.

While this will be a history of witchcraft, the subject cannot be consigned to the history books. Hundreds of people, mostly women, are tried and killed as witches every year in Africa. ‘WITCH HUNT!’ is as common in our language today as ever it was, and witches are still on trial across the world

Speaker Bio

Marion Gibson is Professor of Renaissance and Magical Literatures at the University of Exeter, UK. She is the author of nine books on witches in history and literature: The Witches of St Osyth (2022) and previously Reading Witchcraft; Possession, Puritanism, and Print; Witchcraft Myths in American Culture; Imagining the Pagan Past; Rediscovering Renaissance Witchcraft; Witchcraft: The Basics and, with Jo Esra, Shakespeare’s Demonology. Marion has also edited five books for publishers such as Routledge and Ashgate, and published around twenty chapters and articles. Witchcraft: A History in Thirteen Trials is her most recent work.

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day

2nd Dec 2024 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

£6 - £10 & By Donation

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