Palgrave advances in witchcraft historiography by Jonathan Barry, Owen Davies

By Jonathan Barry, Owen Davies

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If the Church itself could not be trusted to preserve its courage and integrity in this war against the Devil, what hope was there for humanity? From this sense of bewilderment and confusion, therefore, comes the title of de Lancre’s book, ‘A Picture of the Instability of Wicked Angels and Demons’. The first half of the seventeenth century was marked by a threefold crisis. Nascent political absolutism was faced by the ideal of power based on natural law and a contract between ruler and ruled; confessional ruptions were encouraging the impulse to transcend dogmatic difference and concentrate religious experience on personal interiority; and investigation of the natural world was divided between supporters of an enclosed, mechanistic universe and those who argued that the structure of the world argued reason, plan and purpose, and therefore an ultimate Planner.

On Boguet, see S. Houdard, Les sciences du diable (Paris: Les Editions du cerf, 1992), pp. 105–59. 15. See Houdard, Les sciences du diable, pp. 138–59, especially her closing paragraph. 16. See P. G. Maxwell-Stuart: Witch Hunters (Stroud: Tempus, 2003), pp. 32–57; Houdard, Les sciences du diable, pp. 161–216; J. Dusseau, Le juge et la sorcière (Luçon: Editions Sudouest, 2002); M. M. McGowan, ‘Pierre de Lancre’s Tableau de l’inconstance des mauvais anges et démons’, in S. ), The Damned Art (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977), pp.

True, Spee censures almost everyone else – bishops, priors, confessors, judges, scholars, fellow Jesuits (especially Del Rio and Peter Binsfeld, one of the most active prosecutors of witches in late sixteenth-century Germany), and the gossiping, slanderous, superstitious mob – for their involvement in making a dreadful situation worse and perpetuating this type of injustice. 13 So individual is Spee’s book that it might almost be included in the third category of witchcraft treatises, the personal accounts, except that it is well-rooted in legal argumentation and is thus an essay in a certain type of persuasion.

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