Durrant (Univ. of London) offers a sophisticated and refreshing challenge to several conceptions that currently prevail in studies of early modern witch hunting. Focusing on trial transcripts from the German prince-bishopric of Eichstatt during the period 1617-1631, the author makes particular use of confession narratives, finding little to support arguments that witch denunciations reflected local social tensions, gender conflicts, or fears about frightful old women. Nor does the evidence point to the role of agrarian crisis or other material disasters. The words and actions of the accused suggest that these people enjoyed good relationships within their communities; this was not a society riven by tensions or racked by fears of a diabolical sect. True, more women than men were charged, but this was because judicial procedures, especially torture, exaggerated normal social and gender divides. The overall picture of early modern society that emerges here is thus more positive than that conveyed by most scholarship on witchcraft. The hunts were mainly a function of the prince-bishop's program to extirpate heresy, which mirrored the tactics of other Catholic rulers in the Empire. This complex work will prove stimulating and rewarding for scholars with a good background in early modern studies. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students and faculty. - Choice. R. B. Barnes, Davidson College
About the Author
Jonathan Durrant, Ph.D. (2002) in History, University of London, is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Glamorgan. He has published on the witch persecutions and is editor of the Witchcraft Bibliography Project Online.