"Witchfinder General, Salem, King James VI, Malleus Maleficarum. The world of witch hunts and witch trials sounds antiquated, relics of an unenlightened and brutal age. However, 'witch hunt' is heard often in the present-day media, and the misogyny it is rooted in is all too familiar today. Three women were prosecuted under a version of the 1735 Witchcraft Act as recently as 2018.
In Witchcraft, Professor Marion Gibson uses thirteen significant trials to tell the global history of witchcraft and witch-hunts. As well as exploring the origins of witch-hunts through some of the most famous trials from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century, it takes us in new and surprising directions. It shows us how witchcraft was reimagined by lawyers and radical historians in France, how suspicions of sorcery led to murder in Jazz Age Pennsylvania, the effects of colonialism and Christian missionary zeal on ‘witches’ in Africa, and how even today a witch trial can come in many guises.
Significantly, the book tells the stories of the victims — women, such as Helena Scheuberin and Joan Wright — whose stories have too often been overshadowed by those of the powerful men, such as King James VI and I and "Witchfinder General" Matthew Hopkins, who hounded them.
Once a tool invented by demonologists to hurt and silence their enemies, witch trials have been twisted and transformed over the course of history and the lines between witch and witch-hunter blurred. For the fortunate, a witch-hunt is just a metaphor, but, as this book makes clear, witches are truly still on trial."