Author: Geoffrey Scarre
Paperback, 75 pages
Publication date: 1987
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Witchcraft and Magic in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Europe is a thin book in a series called Studies in European History, which is (quoting the back of the book): "designed to present the 'state of the debate' on important themes and episodes in European history since the sixteenth century in a clear and critical way for students."
The book is not, and isn't intended to be, a stand-alone book on sixteenth and seventeenth century witchcraft, magic and witch-hunts. It is a short introduction to the subject, giving pointers to further study in the bibliography and throughout the text.
Geoffrey Scarre covers four major topics in the book's four chapters: "Witchcraft and Magic," "Witchcraft, Magic and the Law," "The Dynamics of Witch Prosecution" and "Why Did Witch Trials Cease?"
Reading the first chapter may give a modern witch or mage some raised eyebrows, with statements like: "The witch and the magician are absent from the stage of real life [in modern Westerner's view of the world], and have been relegated firmly to the realm of fantastic fiction." or "Yet we now recognize that the alleged crimes of the witches were mostly impossible -- a witch could conceivably invoke the Devil, but she could not fly through the air to meet him, nor harm her neighbors by evil magic." Why would invoking the Devil be conceivable, but not harmful magic? Otherwise, these apparently "must include" notes aside, there is discussion on witchcraft and sorcery, high and low magic, as well as a look on disciplines studying historical witchcraft.
The "Witchcraft, Magic and the Law" chapter deals with the formation of the "learned stereotype of the witch" as a demonic worker with the Devil, going on to discuss the regional differences within the witch hunts, as well as who the victims were, how many victims the trials had and the percentage of women, all in all and regionally.
The third chapter takes a look at different theories surrounding the witches of the era under discussion, as well as the reasons for the trials and hunts happening. There is also some discussion on how genuinely did people in general -- and the prosecutors in particular -- believe in witches and witchcraft, as well as why the stereotypical witch was so widely considered to be a women.
The last short chapter deals with possible reasons for the witch hunts to end when they did.
As the book is currently 15 years old, it doesn't meet the criteria of presenting the current "state of the debate" any longer, but it can still be a useful starting point for further studies on the subject, different theories regarding Witchcraft of that are, the Witch hunts and theories around both. As such, it is a handy little book to have around, especially when one is just starting to study this topic.
Reviewed by Faerie K.