Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, 2007 - History - 364 pages
21 Reviews

By spring 1645, two years of civil war had exacted a dreadful toll upon England. People lived in terror as disease and poverty spread, and the nation grew ever more politically divided. In a remote corner of Essex, two obscure gentlemen, Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne, exploited the anxiety and lawlessness of the time and initiated a brutal campaign to drive out the presumed evil in their midst. Touring Suffolk and East Anglia on horseback, they detected demons and idolators everywhere. Through torture, they extracted from terrified prisoners confessions of consorting with Satan and demonic spirits.

Acclaimed historian Malcolm Gaskill retells the chilling story of the most savage witch-hunt in English history. By the autumn of 1647 at least 250 people--mostly women--had been captured, interrogated, and hauled before the courts. More than a hundred were hanged, causing Hopkins to be dubbed "Witchfinder General" by critics and admirers alike. Though their campaign was never legally sanctioned, they garnered the popular support of local gentry, clergy, and villagers. While Witchfinders tells of a unique and tragic historical moment fueled by religious fervor, today it serves as a reminder of the power of fear and fanaticism to fuel ordinary people's willingness to demonize others.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
3
4 stars
4
3 stars
10
2 stars
4
1 star
0

Review: Witchfinders

User Review  - Helen - Goodreads

I found this very accessible and it brings together various materials that Gaskill has sourced from archives etc. It is a bit repetitive, but then again - it was at the time, too: again and again ... Read full review

Review: Witchfinders

User Review  - Andy Bryant - Goodreads

A fascinating subject, but quite a dull read. Too bogged down in the detail of each specific case - with an almost obsessive interest in teat and imp counts - that the overall context of the witch ... Read full review

Contents

Origins
9
2 Strange Effects
27
The Initiation
55
Dark Horizons
78
First Blood
104
Malignants
135
Hellish Invention
162
Contagion
190
Sticklers
215
IO The Biter Bit
240
Epilogue
269
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

Malcolm Gaskill is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, where he is Director of Studies in History.

Bibliographic information