Witches, Witchcraft and Witch-Hunts in Early Modern Europe and New England

The details
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 02 July 2021
19 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module will focus on a phenomenon peculiar to the early modern period: the prosecution of c.100,000-120,000 people for the crime of witchcraft in Europe and its colonies, which resulted in around 50-60,000 executions. In order to understand this phenomenon, and also the regional and chronological variation in witch-trials across Europe during the early modern period, we will explore:
- beliefs about witchcraft, magic and the devil, at both popular and elite levels;
- the legal context of witch-trials (laws, trial processes and the use of torture);
- what motivated accusers and witch-finders in witch-trials;
- whether or not there was a 'stereotypical' witch;
- the gendering of witch-persecution;
- why people confessed to being witches;
- and why witch-trials declined and then stopped by the end of the 18th century.
Students taking this module will engage with key historiographical debates in the field and with the main types of primary sources (all available in English) for the study of early modern witchcraft beliefs and witch-trials (demonologies, trial-records, pamphlets and images).

Module aims

This module aims to:

1. Train you in the reading, analysis, and critical assessment of a range of primary sources relating to the witch-trials and the belief systems which underpinned them.
2. Enable you to engage critically and independently with the diverse historiography of witchcraft.
3. Enable you to engage imaginatively and empathetically with the early modern culture and society in which witch-trials took place.

Module learning outcomes

Students who take this module will:

1. Gain an understanding of a complicated and large-scale historical phenomenon and be confident in comparing witch-trials across time and space.
2. Be able to read, understand and evaluate critically a varied range of relevant primary sources and historiographical debates.
3. Demonstrate writing skills across a range of written assessments (including a piece of empathy writing).

Module information

For introductory reading, see:

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

Lectures and seminars.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Formative document analysis (1000 words)    0% 
Coursework   Summative document analysis (1000 words)     30% 
Coursework   Essay (3000 words)    40% 
Coursework   Take-home exam (1500 words)    30% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Alison Rowlands, email:
Professor Alison Rowlands
Belinda Waterman, Department of History, 01206 872313



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 44 hours, 44 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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

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