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HIS 348 Witchcraft, Law, and the Supernatural in Early Modern Europe (3 credits)

This course will examine popular and educated belief in the supernatural during the early modern period in Europe, beginning with late medieval concepts of magic and finishing with the end of witchcraft trials during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It will focus especially on the "witch-craze" that occurred across Europe and its American colonies during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We will first investigate the cultural aspects of witchcraft belief, analyzing how both certain men and women came to be viewed as witches. We will then study witchcraft as a legal crime by analyzing the judicial machinery of witchcraft prosecutions, as well as the influence that witch trials exerted on the process of legal reform in the seventeenth century. Readings will include trial records, journals, demonology tracts, as well as secondary sources treating witchcraft as a crucial component of early modern beliefs about law, religion, and culture.