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Witchcraft and Witch-Trials, c. 1450-1750

6. The End of Witchcraft?

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about why which-trials came to an end by the end of the eighteenth century, focusing in particular on: (i) the witch-trials that took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692/3; (ii) the extent to which witchcraft prosecutions were starting to try up in Europe at this point, and the last executions for witchcraft in England (Alice Molland, 1685) and Scotland (Janet Horne, 1722); (iii) the importance of stricter evidentiary requirements for proving witchcraft, and the consequent reduction in convictions for witchcraft; (iv) the impact of declining convictions on the plausibility of witchcraft as whole, and the consequent reduction in prosecutions; (v) the repeal and/or reform of witchcraft legislation in this period; (vi) the continued belief in witches, magic and the supernatural to the present day; and (vii) the prevalence of belief in witches and witch-hunts today.


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).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

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

MLA style

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