A fascinating, vivid global history of witch trials across Europe, Africa, and the Americas, told through thirteen distinct trials that illuminate the pattern of demonization and conspiratorial thinking that has profoundly shaped human history.
Witchcraft is a dramatic journey through thirteen witch trials across history, some famous—like the Salem witch trials—and some lesser-known: on Vardø island, Norway, in the 1620s, where an indigenous Sami woman was accused of murder; in France in 1731, during the country’s last witch trial, where a young woman was pitted against her confessor and cult leader; in Pennsylvania in 1929 where a magical healer was labelled a “witch”; in Lesotho in 1948, where British colonial authorities executed local leaders. Exploring how witchcraft became feared, decriminalized, reimagined, and eventually reframed as gendered persecution, Witchcraft takes on the intersections between gender and power, indigenous spirituality and colonial rule, and political conspiracy and individual resistance.
Offering a vivid, compelling, and dramatic story, unspooling through centuries, about the men and women who were accused—some of whom survived their trials, and some who did not—Witchcraft empowers the people who were and are victimized and marginalized, giving a voice to those who were silenced by history.
About the Author
Marion Gibson is Professor of Renaissance and Magical Literatures at the University of Exeter, UK. She is the author of seven academic books on witches in history and literature: Reading Witchcraft; Possession, Puritanism, and Print; Witchcraft Myths in American Culture; Imagining the Pagan Past; Rediscovering Renaissance Witchcraft; Witchcraft: The Basics and, with Jo Esra, Shakespeare’s Demonology. Marion has also edited five books for publishers such as Routledge and Ashgate, published around twenty chapters and articles, and she is General Editor of the series Elements in Magic for Cambridge University Press. Witchcraft: A History in Thirteen Trials is her most recent work.
“It is wonderful to come across a book that breathes such fresh life and energy into a well-worked subject, covering a huge range of time and space with a unified, passionate and convincing message. Any expert is going to learn something new from it, any newcomer to be enthralled and motivated.” —Ronald Hutton, author of The Witch
“These stories of witchcraft, true and vividly told, demonstrate the potent reality of belief in evil and how in any era or place fear can be weaponised and marginal people, mostly women, labelled as wicked and dangerous. Together they comprise not just a history of witchcraft but a cautionary tale of the uncomfortably human habits of paranoia and persecution.” —Malcom Gaskill, author of The Ruin of All Witches
“Thought-provoking and timely... Searing” —Jessie Childs, The Times
“Inventive and compelling... A work of restitution and historical reparation, an attempt to give voice to those who have been silenced over the centuries” —Times Literary Supplement
“From demonology to royal ascensions, Gibson demonstrates how identity politics, power plays and cultural differences all crashed together to allow these historic injustices to occur… A well-rounded insight into some of the strangest and cruellest moments in history.” —Buzz Magazine
“Thirteen witch trials are brought vividly to life in Gibson’s wide-ranging book” —Daily Mail
"A thought-provoking, sweeping work of social history." —Kirkus