Death by 'divelishe demonstracion': witchcraft beliefs, gender and popular religion in the early modern Midlands and north of England.

Bardell, K.M., 1999. Death by 'divelishe demonstracion': witchcraft beliefs, gender and popular religion in the early modern Midlands and north of England. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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The last thirty years has witnessed a revival of scholarly debate surrounding the early modem witch trials. Despite this, there still remains a necessity for a gender history of the English witch trials, since those interpretations which address the question of gender in sufficient depth consist mainly of literary criticism approaches based on literary or pamphlet sources. This indicates a secondary need, for a study which examines non-pamphlet as well as pamphlet material, which establishes a wider picture of community witchcraft beliefs and demonstrates the effectiveness of gender theories by examining previously unresearched cases. This thesis examines an unprecedented range of pamphlet and non-pamphlet sources from the Midlands and the North of England, demonstrating the importance of examining material from under-researched cases and geographical areas, and presents a valuable contribution to existing knowledge of the subject.

This theoretical and methodological approach has involved the challenging and developing of various interpretations of witchcraft beliefs. It is argued that social tension theories do not take sufficient account of the specifically female context of these tensions, or of the overriding importance of reputation in the community. The feminist emphasis on sexual elements of witchcraft beliefs is also questioned, demonstrating that a focus on the role of the body is more effective in understanding witchcraft beliefs. The effectiveness of gender analysis is further demonstrated through an examination of theories positioning the witch as an evil mother figure or antithesis of the ideal woman. Furthermore, it is argued that whilst witchcraft beliefs and accusations involved issues of power' for all concerned, that the nature of this power was clearly gendered.

Finally, it is argued that witchcraft beliefs must be understood in the context of popular culture and religion, where the early modem mentality of a supernatural world was polarised into powers of good and evil. The necessity of examining the role of cunning people and folk magic is demonstrated, in order to understand the wider context of community witchcraft beliefs. The use of gender analysis and the examination of new material in this thesis confirms that witchcraft beliefs were much more than a question of 'death by divelishe demonstration', but rather that these beliefs were part of a complex context of popular culture and intra-gender relations.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Bardell, K.M.
Date: 1999
ISBN: 9781369313383
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Jeremy Silvester
Date Added: 03 Sep 2020 14:02
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2023 09:43

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