Review: Witchcraft and Its Transformations C.1650-C.1750

Witchcraft and Its Transformations C.1650-C.1750
Witchcraft and Its Transformations C.1650-C.1750 by Ian Bostridge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now, moving on to the Early Modern English books. There really aren’t many books on this list. Most of what I read, way back when, were pivotal articles in the field. I also don’t remember much of these books to be completely honest, so the reviews might be few and far between.

Bostridge is an exception to the above rule. I think because my own work is a counter to the prevailing narrative I was drawn to Witchcraft. Instead of the great march of reason and progress as seen in Keith Thomas, Bostridge shows us that though the public trials and executions of witches ended in 1685, the belief and even the laws prohibiting witchcraft remained on the books well into the eighteenth century. We can probably argue that belief in witchcraft is with us to some extent.

Perhaps what I enjoyed most about Bostridge was his thorough discussion of three key points. First, though Keith Thomas and his disciples were too quick to relegate belief in witches to the common classes, when in fact, there is ample evidence that every strata of society held on to witchcraft to some degree. Second, related to the first, that the belief in witchcraft disappeared piecemeal, not quite the shutting of a door on a period of history. And lastly, that the “rational canon was not monolithic. It only appears that way in retrospect.” Take that you Whigs! Huh? a book on witches just in time for Halloween 🙂

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