Witch, Wicce, Mother Goose: The Rise and Fall of the Witch Hunts in Europe and North America

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Longman, 2001 - 202

This is an exciting new illustrated examination of witch-hunt panics and persecutions in colonial America and Europe.

  • Examines the witch stereotype and the growth of torture to elicit confessions and challenges and enhances existing interpretations of the witch-hunt phenomenon.
  • Explains the origins of the witch-hunts in reaction to the growing threats to Christendom 400 years earlier.
  • Written for the general reader, jargon-free and accessible with thirty black and white illustrations, this book offers a fresh approach with new evidence.
This is a compelling and contentious history of witches and witch-hunts in early modern Europe and America. Tens of thousands of people were persecuted and put to death as witches between 1400 and 1700 - the great age of witch-hunts. Why did the witch-hunts arise, flourish and decline during this period? What purpose did the persecutions serve? Who was accused, and what was the role of magic in the hunts? This important reassessment of witch panics and persecutions in Europe and colonial America both challenges and enhances existing interpretations of the phenomenon. Locating its origins 400 years earlier in the growing perception of threats to Western Christendom, Robert Thurston outlines the development of a 'persecuting society' in which campaigns against scapegoats such as heretics, Jews, lepers and homosexuals set the scene for the later witch hunts. He examines the creation of the witch stereotype and looks at how the early trials and hunts evolved, with the shift from accusatory to inquisitorial court procedures and reliance upon confessions leading to the increasing use of torture

Robert Thurston is at the University of Miami.

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Robert Thurston is Professor of History at the University of Miami.

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