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Title: Rethinking demonic possession : the impact of the debates about the John Darrel case on later demonological thought, with particular reference to John Deacon and John Walker
Author: Bhogal, Harman
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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The controversy that led to the conviction of the Puritan exorcist John Darrel for fraud in 1599 has mainly been viewed by historians in the context of the struggle between Puritans and the Church of England. Darrel’s activities have been seen as Puritan propaganda, whilst the authorities’ reaction has been seen as part of their campaign against Puritanism. Their clamp down on Darrel’s activities has also been seen as contributing towards increasing scepticism towards demonic possession in early modern England, especially in cases involving witchcraft. This thesis argues that the Darrel controversy cannot be read solely as a manifestation of the Puritan/establishment conflict, as it will demonstrate how the controversy was actually part of the broader re-assessment of the role of the supernatural in the contemporary world following the Reformation, and that anti-Catholicism, in particular hostility towards the Catholic rite of exorcism, played a significant role in informing sceptical attitudes towards demonic possession. Focussing upon the work of the Puritan preachers John Deacon and John Walker, it will also challenge the Puritan/establishment dichotomy over possession. Their work denied the possibility of possession in their own time by drawing on and elaborating existing medical, natural philosophical and theological arguments, particularly the doctrine of the cessation of miracles. Their work was significant because it was the first work that systematically explored the intricacies of the phenomenon of possession, and it offered an alternative way of thinking about demonic affliction, namely the category of obsession. Writings that appeared following the Darrel controversy demonstrate an awareness of Deacon and Walker’s arguments, and also reveal how the idea of obsession was absorbed into broader demonological thought, thus highlighting how Deacon and Walker’s work was much more significant than has previously been thought.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available