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Title: The decline in the popular belief in witchcraft & magic
Author: Davies, Owen
ISNI:       0000 0001 3413 1111
Awarding Body: University of Lancaster
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 1995
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This thesis examines why the belief in witchcraft and magic remained widespread in England and Wales throughout the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth century, and discusses the causes of its eventual decline. The historiographical reasons why so little academic research has been done on witchcraft beyond the early modern period is explored, and it is argued that British historians need to embrace a more flexible approach in order to gain a better understanding of popular mentalities. Embracing such an approach, this thesis examines the effects of the following socio-economic factors upon the structure of popular belief in witchcraft and magic: popular literacy and the increasing access to popular forms of literature; the spread of educational provision; cultural repression and social control; the rise of the medical profession and market forces; and the growth of urbanization. These trends have all been cited as factors which brought about the declining belief in witchcraft and magic, though, up until this thesis, little detailed research has been done to substantiate such claims. The detailed examination of the impact of the above factors on popular beliefs shows that historians have made too many assumptions about such "progressive" societal forces. It is suggested that in several ways those same forces of social change may have actually helped sustain or encourage the belief in witchcraft and magic. Finally, the thesis discusses how the declining popular belief in witchcraft was brought about by economic and cultural changes at the community level from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, rather than as a result of intellectual advances and the spread of "reason".
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Occult