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The Witch A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present by Ronald Hutton

The Witch A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present


The Witch A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present by Ronald Hutton

Why have societies all across the world feared witchcraft? This book delves deeply into its context, beliefs, and origins in Europe's history The witch came to prominence-and often a painful death-in early modern Europe, yet her origins are much more geographically diverse and historically deep. In this landmark book, Ronald Hutton traces witchcraft from the ancient world to the early-modern stake. This book sets the notorious European witch trials in the widest and deepest possible perspective and traces the major historiographical developments of witchcraft. Hutton, a renowned expert on ancient, medieval, and modern paganism and witchcraft beliefs, combines Anglo-American and continental scholarly approaches to examine attitudes on witchcraft and the treatment of suspected witches across the world, including in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Australia, and North and South America, and from ancient pagan times to current interpretations. His fresh anthropological and ethnographical approach focuses on cultural inheritance and change while considering shamanism, folk religion, the range of witch trials, and how the fear of witchcraft might be eradicated.


Magisterial . . . Hutton concerns himself with the bad, black version of the craft that has terrified poor souls for centuries. His approach blends a broad geographic sweep with the detailed attention of microhistory. --Kathryn Hughes, Guardian

For anyone researching the subject, this is the book you've been waiting for . . . But The Witch is more than a historical reference; it's also a cautionary tale. --The Washington Post

[A] panoptic, penetrating book. --Malcolm Gaskill, London Review of Books

What he has done very valuably, though, is to put what most of us know already into a far wider context, both geographically and historically. It's up to us then to examine our own notions of witches and witchcraft--no longer threatening, but still perfectly familiar. --Wall Street Journal

Hutton, a leading authority on paganism and witchcraft, traces the idea of witches far beyond the Salem witch trials to beliefs and attitudes about witches around the world throughout history. --Los Angeles Times

Comprehensive . . . Highly recommended for readers interested in witch trials, European folklore, and the history of magical beliefs and practices. --Library Journal, starred review

Hutton's exhaustive book explores historical histrionics that resulted in violence against (predominately) women accused of witchcraft. --Shelf Awareness

The book we have all been waiting for. --Diane Purkiss, author of The Witch in History: Early Modern and Twentieth-century Representations

An engrossing journey through the world of witches and witchcraft. Highly recommended for those fascinated by the nature and extent of the notorious European Witch Trials. --Tony Robinson

Eloquent, historically grounded, and global in reach, this is essential reading for anyone interested in the social and political context of witchcraft and the manipulation of supposed supernatural powers. --Timothy Darvill, OBE, author of Prehistoric Britain

Few historical concepts come as imbued with horror and intrigue as that slippery figure of the witch. Ronald Hutton has turned his considerable expertise to this always-current subject, illuminating the late Medieval and early modern idea of witches and witchcraft. Readers looking for a rigorous interdisciplinary approach to the history of witchcraft will devour this book. --Katherine Howe, New York Times bestselling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane The history of witchcraft and its persecution makes for compelling, often terrifying reading. . . what makes [Hutton's] history unique is it provides a much longer - and broader - perspective. The Witch draws upon previously neglected anthropological and ethnographic findings to set the origins of witchcraft and its subsequent persecution in an ancient and global context. --Tracy Borman, Literary Review--Tracy Borman Literary Review (08/01/2017)

About the Author

Ronald Hutton is professor of history, University of Bristol, and a leading authority on ancient, medieval, and modern paganism, on the history of the British Isles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and on the global context of witchcraft beliefs.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st August 2017


Ronald Hutton

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Yale University Press


376 pages


Folklore, myths & legends
European history
Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography



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