Anne L. Barstow

Författare till Witchcraze

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For a fairly slim volume this tackles a huge subject: the 16th and 17th century witch hunts which preoccupied the religious and civic authorities across Europe. The author puts forward various suggestions as to why this burgeoned into such a holocaust after many centuries of low level persecution of witches, and certainly has a point in linking it to the adoption of the theories in Malleus Maleficarum and similar witch hunting manuals that women were supposedly more lustful, more open to persuasion by the devil and that witchcraft was a pact with Satan, in effect making it a replacement for the heresy which had been viciously persecuted on the continent previously. This point is made by contrasting the much lower level persecution in countries such as England, where witchcraft was looked on as a crime to be punished according to the level of harm done to others and where the ideas about the devil's pact, witches sabbat (meeting) and other elements were only introduced late on from the continent. The legalised use of extreme tortures in European countries ensured that persecutions became widespread, as victims named further victims in a spiral of torture and judicial murder, in contrast with England where torture was illegal, the legal system was not inquisitorial, and witchcraft outbreaks were generally small scale as a direct result.

The book roams around very widely in its ambition to cover not only the countries with well-known witchcraft persecutions, but others including Russia. Its underlying theme is that of seeing the witchcraft persecutions as a war on women. Women certainly were greatly disadvantaged, in a period where employment laws were pushing women into more marginal, poorly paid work, where the continent was riven by religious conflict and wars, and where certain officials in both church and state viewed women as more potentially evil than men due to their perceived moral weakness. Certainly a large element of 'blame the victim' went on. The descriptions of appalling torture in this book are also harrowing.

Ultimately, I'm not sure how much use this is as a real guide to the development of the hunts, as opposed to a whistle stop tour with some anecdotes of sad victims. The cruel and even sadistic treatment inflicted on the victims was deplorable, but I wasn't sure if I really learned anything from this book that I didn't already know from others. Although this was published in the 1990s, I'm pretty sure there were others written around the same time which drew the same inferences about gender bias in the numbers of victims of the persecutions, despite the claims in the book to be unique in this. So I would rate this at 3 stars.
… (mer)
kitsune_reader | 2 andra recensioner | Nov 23, 2023 |
barstow has her own agenda and rants on about it to the point of obscuring the actual situation in europe. not recommended.
heidilove | 2 andra recensioner | Dec 1, 2005 |
Now superceded, but important in its day - needs to be considered in the history of the history of the trials... as it were.
tole_lege | 2 andra recensioner | Oct 23, 2005 |


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