Laura Stokes

Associate Professor of History

At Stanford Since

PhD, University of Virginia; MA, University of Virginia; BA. Reed College.
Headshot - Laura Stokes

Bio Sketch

Laura Stokes completed her Ph.D. at the University of Virginia in 2006. Her first book, Demons of Urban Reform, examines the origins of witchcraft prosecution in fifteenth-century Europe against the backdrop of a general rise in the prosecution of crime and other measures of social control. In the process she has investigated the relationship between witchcraft and sodomy persecutions as well as the interplay between the unregulated development of judicial torture and innovations within witchcraft prosecution.

Her current research is an examination of quotidian economic culture during the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries. This project, under the working title A Social History of Greed in the Age of the Reformation, is based largely on the examination of court depositions from the city of Basel. Its first fruit will be a microhistory on The Murder of Uly Mörnach, currently in process.

Research Interests

  • Usury and greed
  • Economic culture
  • Gender and social history
  • Witches and witch hunting
  • History of sexuality
  • Criminal law
  • Utopian thought

Recent Presentations

  • “Legally Established Facts and Early Modern Rights Discourse,” Sixteenth Century Studies Conference, October 2013.
  • “Persecution, Law, and the Origins of Modernity: A Lecture on the History of Witch Hunting,” Keynote Lecture, Point Park University Humanities Symposium, April 2013.
  • “Wealth Admired, Wealth Hated. Managing Money and Power in Fifteenth-Century Basel,” Stanford Religion and Wealth Lecture Series, March 2013.
  • “A Man Who Needed Killing: Hubris and Guild Honor in Sixteenth-Century Basel,” Sixteenth Century Studies Conference, October 2012.
  • “Reassessing the Reformation Hiatus in the Witch Hunts,” German Studies Association, October 2012.
  • “Greed between the Lines: Social Criticism in Court Depositions from Basel” delivered at the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Montréal, October 2010.
  • “Witchcraft Accusations and the Social Criticism of Greed” delivered at the German Studies Association in Oakland, October 2010.
  • “Indigenous Manifestations of Evil and the Epistemology of Witchcraft” delivered at the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, March 2009.
  • “The Witches’ Devil: Outlaws, Wolves and the Saturation of the Ordinary with the Supernatural” delivered at the Devil in Premodern Society conference in Toronto, October 2008
  • “Hagel und Hexen: The meaning of weather magic in the formation of witch stereotypes on the upper Rhine” invited lecture at the University of Minnesota, October 2008
  • “Hagel und Hexen: The meaning of weather magic in the formation of witch stereotypes on the upper Rhine” delivered at the Boundaries of Witchcraft conference at Oxford University, March 2008


Book cover: Demons of Urban ReformDemons of Urban Reform: The Rise of Witchcraft Prosecution, 1430-1530 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)




  •  Demons of Urban Reform: Early European Witch Trials and Criminal Justice, 1430-1530 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)
  • “Towards the Witch Craze” in The [Oxford] Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe (2013)
  •  “Experiments in Pain: Reason and the Development of Judicial Torture” in Ideas and Cultural Margins in Early Modern Germany: Essays in Honor of H. C. Erik Midelfort, (Ashgate, 2009)
  • Translator: Johannes Dillinger 'Evil People': A comparative study of witch hunts in Swabian Austria and the Electorate of Trier (University of Virginia Press, 2009)
  • “Prelude: Early witch-hunting in Germany and Switzerland.” In Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft 4:1 (Summer, 2009): 54-61.
  • “Mit dem Teufel im Bund.” In Epoc. Das Magazin für Archäologie und Geschichte. (05/2010)