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The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts Hardcover – November 27, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


'A general, accessible history of ghosts and ghosts beliefs is much-needed, particularly one like this which manages to be empathetic to the beliefs involved while rescuing the topic from the enthusiasts of the ghost-hunting fraternity. The quality of the writing is a major bonus: Davies wears his erudition lightly, and weaves it into accessible and often witty prose. This book manages the difficult feat of representing a real advance in scholarship, while appealing to a wider general readership. It's an admirable achievement.' - Peter Marshall, University of Warwick, UK 
'A fascinating and authoritative cultural history, packed with illuminating stories. From medieval revenants and headless horsemen to the sensational hauntings at Cock Lane and Borley Rectory, all England's ghosts are here. With great skill and sensitivity, Owen Davies takes these strange tales at face value in order to peer into the obscure mental world of our ancestors. It is a fine achievement.' - Malcolm Gaskill, University of East Anglia, UK 
'Owen Davies has produced the most comprehensive, lively and perceptive cultural history of English ghosts ever written. It is an amazingly broad survey, which covers every angle that I might have expected, and plenty that I did not: painstakingly researched, imaginative, and generous to all involved in his case-studies.' - Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol, UK 
'I enjoyed Owen Davies' book enormously. He has written a remarkably detailed account of largely English ghosts and ghostly phenomena in an intelligent, fascinating, and very readable narrative which answers most of the questions one is likely to ask about them. I commend it as one of the best books I have read on the subject' - Peter Maxwell-Stuart, University of St Andrews 
'A provocative and splendidly, comprehensively researched new book.' - Laurie Taylor, Thinking Allowed, BBC Radio 4 
'What is a ghost? Owen Davies suggests that no single definition can cover revenants, angels, devils, fairies, will-o'-the-wisps, or demonic cadavers. The context in which ghosts appear is influenced by contemporary philosophy, religion and science. So, the Reformation in England eradicated the worship of saints and reduced the relevance of angels, leaving ghosts the sole manifest representatives of the afterlife for most Anglicans. Davies is no debunker: with the best rational will in this world (and in the next) he considers the phenomena from the Dark Ages to our own New Age.' - Iain Finlayson, The Times 
'Rather than simply focusing on reported manifestations of ghosts through the ages, Owen Davies's meticulously researched work puts the events in context, investigating not only the origin of such reports, but also how they're spun or rationalised, based often upon the social climate of the time...Hardcore followers...will find this a treasure trove of information and insight.' - Beyond Magazine 
'...this is exactly what the world needs: a fresh, original and thorough analysis of the torrent of ghost stories that have been with us since probably the beginnings of language...As the book is both informative and enlightening, I've no hesitation in recommending it.' - Bob Rickard, Fortean Times 
'This is a well-written and researched book that gives an interesting overview of the common beliefs about ghosts from the Middle Ages to the 18th century...Recommended.' - The Cauldron
'In his exhaustive, intelligent and impeccably researched new book, The Haunted:A Social History of Ghosts, Owen Davies entertainingly delineates the sheer scope of the phenomenon - from medieval superstition to nineteenth-century spiritualism to the present-day abundance of psychics who haunt the murkier channels of digital television.' - Jon Barnes, Times Literary Supplement
'Davies packs his book with a wealth of detail and constantly referes to contemporary documents, but the wider scope makes for a more interesting read, with the reader able to follow various strands down through the years.' - Peter Tennant, Black Static No. 4
'Over the last few years scholars in the humanities have begun to take historical narratives featuring ghosts seriously and Davies makes a significant contribution to the emerging debates on the subject. In summing up the book I cannot better the view of P.G. Maxwell-Stuart given on the back of the dust jacket, "intelligent, fascinating and very readable.' - John Newton, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

OWEN DAVIES is Reader in Social History at the University of Hertfordshire.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; First Edition edition (November 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403939241
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403939241
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #558,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Karen S. Garvin on August 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are looking to read a ghost story, this is not the book to reach for. Owen Davies writes about the social history of ghosts, as the book's subtitle clearly states. What is not be clear from the book's title is that the focus is on the history of ghosts in Great Britain. I was aware of that when I bought it, so I am not disappointed that there is no discussion of American spirits or those found on the Continent or elsewhere in the world. Still, as Owen writes in the first sentence of his Introduction, "England has long had a reputation for being haunted." My English mother had a few ghost stories to tell me, and I grew up reading about ghosts and the various pixies and elves and other folk that inhabited fen and forest.

There are eight chapters broken into three sections: Experience, Explanation, and Representation. Davies writes with a sureness that seems to indicate a long time spent researching the topic, and I have no reason to doubt his comfort level with the material. As this is the first social history that I've read about hauntings or the history of psychic phenomena, I don't feel qualified to submit Davies's material to deep scrutiny, but the book is well cited and there are ample notes for anyone who wants to read more deeply in the subject.

Despite being an academic volume, there are places where Davies indulges in a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, but he stops short of mocking his subjects. Clearly, for many people ghosts and spirits and demons were real, not just figments of the imagination. But for others, ghosts provided an avenue for earning a bit of extra cash by duping the gullible.
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By C. Hunter on October 9, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author offers a comprehensive look at how and when and why ghosts are experienced, primarily in Great Britain. Ghostly phenomenon are taken seriously without venturing a position about whether these are verifiable or real. For a scholar, Davies writes very well, making this an entertaining, informative read.
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