Synopses & Reviews
"Brian Levack's aims are to provide a coherent introduction to the subject and contribute to an ongoing scholarly debate. In both these aims - but particularly in the former - he has succeeded magnificently. ...it will serve as a standard introduction to the topic for many years to come." So wrote Brian Easlea in the English Historical Review of this famous book when it first appeared in 1987. It focuses on the great age of witch-hunting in Europe (and also in colonial America), between 1450 and 1750. In these years more than 100,000 people - most of them women - were prosecuted by secular and ecclesiastical courts across Europe for allegedly practising harmful magic and worshipping the Devil. The book sets out to answer the major questions that this strange and terrible phenomenon evokes today: * Why did the trials take place? * Why did they suddenly proliferate in Europe at this time? How many trials were there, and where, and what were their outcomes? * Why were more witches prosecuted in some countries than others? * Who were the accused and who were their accusers? * Why, after more than 200 years of vigorous activity, did the trials eventually dwindle away? * What do they tell us about the social, economic and political history of early modern Europe - and, in particular, the position of women within it? In this timely Second Edition, Brian Levack now incorporates the latest scholarship on the subject. The general lines of his argument remain as before, but numerous new regional and local studies (many on the periphery of Europe) have made possible a fuller treatment of the witch-hunt, and a more detailed analysis of its chronological and geographical distribution. He also includes new material on the development of witch-beliefs in the Middle Ages; on the social dimension of witchcraft; and on the connection between witch-hunting and the Protestant and Catholic Reformations. The notes and bibliography have been greatly expanded, and the book has been entirely reset. "(He) has produced a valuable synthesis of the materials currently available, and his text will prove a lifeline to many students."Martin Ingram, European History Quarterly "Now, at last, with Brian Levack's careful, scholarly and critical survey, a thoroughly reliable introduction to the whole literature is available. Levack appears to have read every significant work, both new and old and in most relevant languages, and has judiciously sifted out the information, pondered on it, and come up with balanced and sensible verdicts."Henry Kamen, History Today "Levack's logical sorting of a prodigious amount of material has resulted in one of the most informative and comprehensive works of its genre."Hans Sebald, American Historical Review BRIAN P. LEVACK is Professor of History in the University of Texas at Austin.
This famous book focuses on the great age of witch-hunting in Europe (and colonial America) between 1450 and 1750. It examines why the witch-trials took place; how many trials and victims there were, and where; why their incidence was so uneven in Europe; who accused whom; and why witch-hunting eventually petered out. In the process it illuminates the social, economic and political history of early modern Europe, and in particular the position of women within it. For this Second Edition, Brian Levack has revised his text to take account of scholarship since 1987. The notes and references have been greatly expanded, and the entire text reset.
Why did the trials take place? Why did they suddenly expand in Europe at this time? How many trials were there, and where, and how did they end? Using recent findings, this revised edition examines early Europes fascination with witches and witchcraft.
- Last edition has sold over 22,000 copies!
- Contains the latest material on this intriguing topic
- Strong endorsements and previous editions have been widely reviewed
Fearlessly, Brian Levack tackles a vast, complex subject and reduces it to a concise and lucid synthesis with consummate skill, challenging old assumptions and casting light into the darkest corners.
the essential starting point for the study of early modern witch-beliefs and witchcraft trials.
Dr Malcolm Gaskill, University of Cambridge
Of previous editions:
Now, at last, with Brian Levacks careful scholarly and critical survey, a thoroughly reliable introduction to the whole literature is available.
Between 1450 and 1750 thousands of people most of them women were accused, prosecuted and executed for the crime of witchcraft. The witch-hunt was not a single event; it comprised thousands of individual prosecutions, each shaped by the religious and social dimensions of the particular area as well as political and legal factors. Brian Levack sorts through the proliferation of theories to provide a coherent introduction to the subject, as well as contributing to the scholarly debate. The book:
· Examines why witchcraft prosecutions took place, how many trials and victims there were, and why witch-hunting eventually came to an end.
· Explores the beliefs of both educated and illiterate people regarding witchcraft.
· Uses regional and local studies to give a more detailed analysis of the chronological and geographical distribution of witch-trials.
- Emphasises the legal context of witchcraft prosecutions.
- Illuminates the social, economic and political history of early modern Europe, and in particular the position of women within it.
In this fully updated third edition of his exceptional study, Levack incorporates the vast amount of literature that has emerged since the last edition. He substantially extends his consideration of the decline of the witch-hunt and goes further in his exploration of witch-hunting after the trials, especially in contemporary Africa. New illustrations vividly depict beliefs about witchcraft in early modern Europe.
Brian Levack is the John Green Regents Professor in History at the University of Texas at Austin. He has written and edited many books, including The Witchcraft Sourcebook (2004) and Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (1999).
Includes bibliographical references (p. 270-284) and index.
About the Author
grew up in a family of teachers in the New York metropolitan area. From his father, a professor of French history, he acquired a love for studying the past, and he knew from an early age that he too would become a historian. He received his B.A. from Fordham University in 1965 and his Ph.D. from Yale in 1970. In graduate school he became fascinated by the history of the law and the interaction between law and politics, interests that he has maintained throughout his career. In 1969 he joined the History Department of the University of Texas at Austin, where he is now the John Green Regents Professor in History. The winner of several teaching awards, Levack teaches a wide variety of courses on British and European history, legal history, and the history of witchcraft. For eight years he served as the chair of his department, a rewarding but challenging assignment that made it difficult for him to devote as much time as he wished to his teaching and scholarship. His books include The Civil Lawyers in England, 1603-1641: A Political Study (1973), The Formation of the British State: England, Scotland and the Union, 1603-1707 (1987),
and The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (1987 and 1995),
which has been translated into eight languages.
His study of the development of beliefs about witchcraft in Europe over the course of many centuries gave him the idea of writing a textbook on Western civilization that would illustrate a broader set of encounters between different cultures, societies, and ideologies. While writing the book, Levack and his two sons built a house on property that he and his wife, Nancy, own in the Texas hill country. He found that the two projects presented similar challenges: it was easy to draw up the design, but far more difficult to execute it. When not teaching, writing, or doing carpentry work, Levack runs along the jogging trails of Austin, and he has recently discovered the pleasures of scuba diving.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction 2. The Intellectual Foundations 3. The Legal Foundations 4. The Impact of the Reformation 5. The Social Context 6. The Dynamics of Witch Hunting 7. The Chronology and geography of Witch-hunting 8. Decline and survival