victimhood. Witchcraft trials, perhaps paradoxically, have proven to be
fruitful sites for finding evidence of women’s resistance and agency.
Women accused of witchcraft resisted in various ways, including the
recantation of confessions made under torture. This very resistance,
particularly recantation, has led to some highly questionable
interpretations of witchcraft cases. On one hand, it is necessary to
recognise the possibility
The peculiar course of the gacaca process introduced in Rwandan society to deal with the legacy of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi has been thoroughly examined in book-length scholarly studies ( Clark, 2010 ; Ingelaere, 2016 ; Chakravarty, 2015 ; Doughty, 2016 ; Longman, 2017 ). 1 Not only observations of trial proceedings but also survey results and popular narratives collected during fieldwork indicate that testimonial activity – both confessions but especially accusations – was the cornerstone of the gacaca system ( Penal Reform
Brabant (2011 : 92–3).
Cf. above-mentioned interview (note 12): ‘Les lacunes
du journalisme font le bonheur des ONG’.
See, for example, the collection of articles entitled ‘Secret Aid
Worker’ (formerly ‘Confessions of a Humanitarian’),
where professionals speak anonymously about subjects like poor management
Given the widespread belief in witchcraft and the existence of laws against such practices, why did witch-trials fail to gain momentum and escalate into ‘witch-crazes’ in certain parts of early modern Europe? This book answers this question by examining the rich legal records of the German city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a city that experienced a very restrained pattern of witch-trials and just one execution for witchcraft between 1561 and 1652. The book explores the factors that explain the absence of a ‘witch-craze’ in Rothenburg, placing particular emphasis on the interaction of elite and popular priorities in the pursuit (and non-pursuit) of alleged witches at law. By making the witchcraft narratives told by the peasants and townspeople of Rothenburg central to its analysis, the book also explores the social and psychological conflicts that lay behind the making of accusations and confessions of witchcraft. Furthermore, it challenges the existing explanations for the gender-bias of witch-trials, and also offers insights into other areas of early modern life, such as experiences of and beliefs about communal conflict, magic, motherhood, childhood and illness. Written in a narrative style, the study invites a wide readership to share in the drama of early modern witch trials.
would come up soon. He replied that she could be imprisoned for a long time, as she had denied her presence in the murder. Janssens asked ‘if she had been present, and if she confessed this, would she need to die?’ The prosecutor said that he did not think so. She then confessed that she had been present at the murder scene, but had not been involved and had not been aware of what the others were up to.
Two weeks later, however, Janssens retracted this confession. She claimed that she had only confessed because the prison guard had recommended this. Nevertheless
This book is a study of the trials involving allegations and confessions of maleficient or demonic witchcraft that took place in the German city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber between c. 1561 and c. 1652. It has two aims. First, it will
explain why Rothenburg had a restrained pattern of witch-hunting during this
period, with relatively few trials (even fewer of which ended in guilty verdicts
against alleged witches); no mass-panics involving large numbers of accused
witches; and the execution of only one alleged witch.1 Second, it will offer
Magic, witchcraft and Church in early eighteenth-century Capua
the secret as ulterior social control, with
the purpose of avoiding the growth of denunciations, particularly those
motivated by revenge. The analogy with the sacred aspect of the confession
is also noticeable. Nothing of what has been said can by definition go beyond
the specific place and time of the act of denunciation. In this respect the
secular action of denunciation assumes the aspect of the sacramental.22
In the above example the formalisation of the explicit reaches its maximum degree, but often it is not so elaborate. Some explicits are basically
indictment of traditional ecclesiastical authority.
Within a year Luther would become the pole around which, negatively or
positively, Western Christendom would orientate itself. Within three years
Luther himself would be condemned and excommunicated by the Roman
church; and before his death the dividing lines that demarcate the Western
confessions to this day would be ﬁrmly in place.
One of the more fascinating historical questions is whether the youthful Greek
instructor knew enough about Luther to want to join him in his work in
Wittenberg. Records from
The idioms and risks of defiance in the trial of Margaretha Horn, 1652
patriachal elite’, whose statements and confessions were simply forced rehashings of that elite’s demonology.1 On the contrary – and despite the fact that
power over the trial process lay ultimately with the council – alleged witches
were capable of contributing to and of shaping the course of interrogations in
idiosyncratic ways. At the same time, however, the trial of Margaretha shows
that it was becoming increasingly problematic for women accused of witchcraft
in early modern Rothenburg to articulate defiance against their accusers and the
council without this defiance
In 1997, Stuart Clark published the first monograph since the time of Jules Michelet to focus on pre-modern ideas about witches. The language of belief in witchcraft studies betrays an anachronistic, modernist and dismissive approach to a mental universe quite different from our own. This book makes the male witch visible, to construct him as a historical subject, as a first step toward a deeper understanding of the functions and role of gender in pre-modern European witch-hunting and ideas about witches. The overtly political dimension to the study of witches in early modern Europe demands a high level of consciousness and reflexivity regarding language, representation, and meaning. William Monter provides a wealth of data about male witches, in an 'unremarkable province' close to 'the heart of northern and western Europe'. Here, men comprised the majority of those tried and executed for witchcraft. The book examines cases in which men were accused of witchcraft. The examples are drawn from several different regions, in order to test conventional generalisations about male witches. The agency theory posits that actors always have choices; 'agent-centred' morality proposes a novel twist on both traditional Kantian internalist categories. The problems of both male and female witches' agency and selfhood are discussed. The book also presents data compiled from ten canonical works, and a brief discussion of demonological illustrations. Finally, it addresses the question of what it means to label a man as a witch within a framework that explicitly and implicitly feminised witchcraft.