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Towards the Witch Craze

Front Cover of The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe
Oxford University Press
Jun 2013

“Towards the Witch Craze” in The [Oxford] Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe (2013)

The early modern witch craze could never have taken place without crucial transformations in elite attitudes toward magic that opened the ears of judges to popular witch fears. The groundwork for these transformations was laid during the generations of social upheaval and papal schism that followed the Black Death, but the turning point came with demonological innovations in the early fifteenth century. These innovations coincided with a revolution in criminal justice that armed judges with powerful tools for extracting all manner of confessions at a time when they were increasingly disposed to lend credence to the accusations of the populace against suspected witches.