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Witchcraft & the law in early modern Europe & USA: Bad magic

Using this guide

Navigate through this guide by clicking on the pertinent tab you can see above this box (below the main title of this guide).
 

Below are links to take you to other Bodleian libguides which may help you with your studies in this area.

Trials of witches, warlocks and werewolves

Between (at least) the 14th and 18th centuries, societies across Europe and colonial America could be convulsed by such an acute fear of the existence and exercise of demonic powers within their communities that the authorities for law and order became involved.
Court records are crucial - though not the sole - evidence of these waves of panic, and the consequences which could befall those found guilty.
It is feared that at least 60,000 people may have been executed as a result - women possibly accounting for about 80% of those condemned.

Please use this box as a starting point - consult the other pages of this guide( indicated by the tabs above) for more structured guidance on particular sources & countries

 

Electronic resources

Some examples of material & commentary that is available electronically. The first examples requires an Oxford SSO for remote access, whereas the last two are on the free web, and available to any interested researcher.

The Oxford University union catalogue, SOLO, will help you discover material regardless of where it is physically held. Where an electronic version is available then a View online link will be offered to you. In most instances an Oxford Single Sign On will be needed if you are not on the OU/Bodleian network.

For physical books & journals, make sure you use the Find & Request tab to check which Bodleian Library Reading Room holds the item(s) you want to read - or indeed whether it is in the Closed Stack and needs to be requested.

To start a subject search in SOLO, try the following. In some instances it would be profitable to try a more restricted search eg by substituting the name of an individual country eg Witchcraft -- Poland-- History 

Trials (Witchcraft) history 
Trials (Witchcraft) Europe OR United States  history 

Witchcraft -- Europe OR United States -- History 
Witchcraft -- Social aspects -- Europe OR United States 

Witch hunting -- Historiography

Warlocks -- Europe OR United States  -- History 
Werewolves -- Europe OR United States  -- History 
Witches -- Europe OR United States  --- History 

Demonology -- Social aspects -- Europe OR United States  
Demonology -- Europe OR United States  -- History 

Magic - Europe OR United States  - History



If you are interested in the legal context: 
Criminal law - [name of country] - history 
Criminal procedure - [name of country] -- history 
Evidence (Law) -- [name of country] -- History 
Criminal Justice, Administration of -- [name of country] -- History

Further paths which might be fruitful:

Moral panics
Deviant behavior -- History 
Conformity -- History 
Social control -- History 
Persecution -- History

Printed resources in the Bodleian

The various history reading rooms in the Old Bod and the Radcliffe Camera have the majority of the open shelf material in this area of research. Other material can be requested from the Closed Stack.

As always, remember to click the Find & Request tab on results screen of SOLO searches to find out details of Reading Room and shelf mark (call number) - and please feel able to ask a member of staff for directions, especially if you are new to a particular part of the Bodleian.

The  Bodleian Law Library's collection may also be useful if you are interested in the specifically legal context and content of these cases. For instance,  was witchcraft dealt with by legislation? Or, what was the contemporary criminal law, its processes and procedure (evidence & proof, use of torture for extraction of confessions, views on control and punishment of this and other areas of sexual deviancy)? Or, does witchcraft throw any light on contemporary awareness on popular understanding of contract law? Was calling someone a witch a ground for a claim for defamation (slander)?

The Law Bod's open shelf collection will be particularly helpful if your area of study is or includes the common law countries England, Ireland, and United States and Scotland. Also if you need to read an article that was published in a legal journal.


As always, remember to click the Find & Request tab on results screen of SOLO searches to find out details of Reading Room and shelf mark (call number) - and please feel able to ask a member of staff for directions, especially if you are new to a particular part of the Bodleian.

Finally, SOLO may also reveal that the Vere Harmsworth Library (special USA collection) and the Bodleian English Faculty Library are the only ones to have items that could support your studies.

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History Subject Librarian

Isabel Holowaty's picture
Isabel Holowaty
Contact:
Upper Reading Room, Room 2.03 (North / History end)
Bodleian Library, Broad Street
Oxford, OX1 3BG
01865 2-77294
Website / Blog PageSkype Contact

Law Library Team

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Elizabeth Wells
Contact:
Bodleian Law Library
St Cross Building
Manor Road
Oxford
OX1 3UR
01865 271462
Website / Blog Page