WITCHFINDERS: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy

WITCHFINDERS: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy

MALCOLM GASKILL    Book Number: 85644    Product format: Paperback

In 17th century England people inhabited a magical universe, a cosmos full of spiritual and occult forces with the power to shape earthly events. One of the most pervasive beliefs was in witchcraft, which endures today in New Age religion. Between 1563 and 1736 witchcraft was a statutory offence punishable by death. England experienced one witch-hunt orchestrated by people calling themselves witchfinders and it happened in the counties of East Anglia during the civil war in the mid 1640s. At the centre of this tragedy stand a pair of minor gentlemen, Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne. They interrogated perhaps 300 suspects, of whom a third were hanged. By the spring of 1645, civil war had exacted a terrible toll upon England. Disease was rife, apocalyptic omens appeared in the skies, and idolaters were detected in every shire. In a remote corner of what is now Essex, these two obscure gentlemen triggered the most brutal witch hunt in English history, driven by godly zeal. Exploiting the anxiety and lawlessness of the times and cheered on by ordinary folk, they extracted confessions of satanic pacts resulting in scores of executions. A well written and judicious and wonderfully detailed history written with respect and deep human understanding of the moral confusion and suspicious paranoia in which so many wandered, how local grudges were paid off and how the legal system was subverted by mass hysteria. 364pp in paperback, 37 woodcut and other illus.
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ISBN 9780719561214
Browse this category: History

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