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date: 20 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Most histories of witchcraft used to emphasize either the irrational, religious, or ecclesiastical sources of witchcraft prosecution, or else they portrayed witches as dissident women, persecuted for their knowledge or assertiveness. Both rationalists and romantics imagined witchcraft as a conspiracy of some sort. From circa 1970, social historians showed that those accused were rarely dissidents or village healers. Most accusations originated in village fears of harmful magic rather than in the scholastic imaginations of inquisitorial prosecutors. The end of witchcraft trials, therefore, involved both a decline in belief in efficacious magic and changes in legal procedure. Changes came at different times and ways across Europe. Efforts to see the end of witchcraft trials as an expression of “the baroque” might focus on the growing effort among artists, authors, and intellectual leaders to maintain a comprehensive and unified world view, a task that was becoming more difficult by the eighteenth century.

Keywords: Baroque, witchcraft, magic, harmful, judicial procedure, social history, skepticism, torture, childhood, imagination

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