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Title: Witchcraft, magic and superstition in England, 1640-1670
Author: Valletta, Frederick Victor Alfred
ISNI:       0000 0000 4187 3511
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 1998
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This thesis examines the relationship between élite and popular beliefs in witchcraft, magic and superstition in England. In particular, these issues are considered against the background of political, religious and social upheaval characteristic of the Civil War, Interregnum and Restoration periods. Throughout the work it is stressed that deeply held superstitions were fundamental to belief in witches, the devil, ghosts, apparitions and supernatural healing. In addition the way such superstitions were used by both political and religious authorities is examined. Despite the fact that popular - superstitions were often condemned, it was recognised that their propaganda value was too useful to ignore. A host of pamphlets and treatises was published during this period unashamedly incorporating such beliefs. The employment of demonic imagery and language in such polemics may not have been officially sanctioned, but it had the advantage of at least being easily understood and recognised by most people. The work is divided into an introduction, seven chapters, a conclusion and three appendices. Chapter 1 looks at the religious and political background to witchcraft belief and justifies the period chosen. Chapter 2 analyses the demonological literature of the period and assesses the influence of the devil on people's consciousness, including how the devil was portrayed and what was known of his powers. Chapter 3 examines the way in which reports of the supernatural, such as ghosts, apparitions and monstrous births, were interpreted as prodigies and utilised for religious or political purposes. Chapter 4 assesses the role, influence and methods of unofficial healers, particularly cunning folk and white witches, and examines how they came into conflict with their patients, official practitioners of medicine and the prevailing religious authorities. Chapter 5 is concerned with the legal problems inherent in witchcraft trials, especially the influence the populace may have had on the judicial process. Chapter 6 consists of a local study of a number of episodes of witchcraft, concentrating on Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Somerset. Chapter 7 assesses why people made allegations of witchcraft, and, more importantly, why people may have confessed to witchcraft. The three appendices provide respectively: quantitative data on individual witches gleaned from all the sources examined, an explanation of sympathetic magic, the principles and beliefs concerning humoural medicine.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History