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Witchcraft and Witch-Trials, c. 1450-1750

3. Accusations

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In this module, we think about where accusations of witchcraft actually came from, focusing in particular on: (i) the deteriorating conditions of life in 16th-century Europe: poor harvests (especially in the 1590s), rising food prices, outbreaks of plague and other diseases, and war; (ii) the extent to which accusations of witchcraft tended to rise in periods of bad harvests, plague and war; (iii) the extent to which tensions between members of the same town or village were symptoms of broader social changes in this period ("the blood-red fingers of the dawn of modernity"); (iv) Alan Macfarlane and Keith Thomas' model of how witchcraft accusations occurred, and the emblematic case of Elizabeth Crossley, who was accused of witchcraft in 1646; (v) the specific circumstances that prompted accusations of witchcraft, e.g. a sudden illness in the previous healthy, anything untoward involving children, etc.; (vi) the sense in which accusations for witchcraft were the result of both short-term catalysts and reputations built up over a logner period of time; (vii) the case of Agnes Brown and her daughter Joan, executed as witches in 1612; and (viii) the case of Maiette Lutschen, executed as a witch in 1619.


In this course, Professor Suzannah Lipscomb (University of Roehampton) explores the history of witchcraft and witch-hunting in Europe and the United States in the period 1450-1750. In the first module, we think about belief in witches and witchcraft. After that, we think about how and why mere belief in witchcraft turned into actual prosecutions (and executions) from the later 15th century onwards, before turning in the third module to consider where accusations of witch-craft actually came from. Under what circumstances might one accuse someone of being a witch? In the fourth module, we think about the extent to which the witch-trials of the period 1450-1750 were 'gendered', while in the fifth we think about the practice of using torture to extract 'confessions' from those accused of witchcraft. Finally, in the sixth module, we think about why witch trials came to an end when they did, and the extent to which belief in witchcraft and witch-hunting remains a reality today.


Professor Suzannah Lipscomb MA, MSt, DPhil (Oxon), F.R.Hist.S., FHEA, is an historian, author, broadcaster, and award-winning professor of history at the University of Roehampton. Her research focuses on the sixteenth century, both on English and French history. She works on Henry VIII and the early Tudor court, and is especially interested in the intersection of religious, gender, political, social, and psychological history. Her recent publications include The Voices of Nîmes: Women, Sex and Marriage in Reformation Languedoc (2019), Witchcraft, a Ladybird Expert book (2018) and The King is Dead: The Last Will and Testament of Henry VIII (2015).

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APA style

Lipscomb, S. (2021, February 26). Witchcraft and Witch-Trials, c. 1450-1750 - Accusations [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lipscomb, S. "Witchcraft and Witch-Trials, c. 1450-1750 – Accusations." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Feb 2021,

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