Witch-Trials in Early Modern Europe and New England

The details
Philosophical, Historical, and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 13 January 2025
Friday 21 March 2025
10 April 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module will focus on the large-scale prosecution of individuals for the crime of witchcraft in early modern western Europe and New England. It will explore beliefs about witchcraft, legal changes, the motivations behind accusations of witchcraft, and the regional variation in the intensity of witch-trials.

The module will focus on some of the largest witch-trial episodes and explore why accusations escalated into mass-persecution in certain times and places. It will familiarise students with key historiographical debates surrounding the phenomenon of witch-trials (for example, around the issue of the gendering of witch-persecution) and introduce them to some of the primary sources for the study of early modern witchcraft beliefs and witch-trials (demonologies, trial-records and images).

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To understand the legal, cultural and social context which made witch-trials possible.

  • To compare large-scale episodes of witch-persecution and their causes.

  • To analyse secondary and primary sources about this subject critically and with confidence.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Gain a deep knowledge of early modern witch-trials and their causes and empathy for the people involved in them.

  2. Gain the ability to think about witch-persecution comparatively.

  3. Develop their ability to read and analyse historiographical debates and primary source material.

Module information

Introductory Reading

  • Brian P. Levack, The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe (ideally the 3rd edition, Pearson Longman, 2006).

  • Julian Goodare, The European Witch-Hunt (Routledge, 2016).

  • Brian P. Levack (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America (Oxford, 2013).

  • Malcolm Gaskill, Witchcraft. A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2010).

  • Johannes Dillinger (ed.), The Routledge History of Witchcraft (Routledge, 2016).

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 2-hour workshop per week.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Primary Source Analysis (750 words)    20% 
Coursework   Essay (2250 words)    75% 
Practical   Workshop participation    5% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Alison Rowlands, email:
History UG Administrators:



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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