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Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts Paperback – June 24, 1995


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Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts + The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe + Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History (Middle Ages Series)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (June 24, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062510363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062510365
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A definitive portrait of the witch-hunts that terrorized European women during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Though the persecution, torture, and execution of more than seven million women suspected of being witches during this period has been documented in other historical sources, Barstow is the first scholar to offer a convincing gender analysis of the Reformation-era witch craze. According to Barstow, independent and intelligent women often proved to be convenient targets for misogynists seeking scapegoats for every conceivable social ill. Most interesting is the author's credible assertion that the witch-hunts not only paralleled the emergence of a more patriarchal society, but also heralded the disturbing decline in the status of women that continued over the course of the next several centuries. A fascinating historical treatise that provides an evolutionary context for the contemporary proliferation and escalation of violence toward women. Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"A definitive portrait of the witch-hunts that terrorized European women during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Though the persecution, torture, and execution of more than seven million women suspected of being witches during this period has been documented in other historical sources, Barstow is the first scholar to offer a convincing gender analysis of the Reformation-era witch craze. According to Barstow, independent and intelligent women often proved to be convenient targets for misogynists seeking scapegoats for every conceivable social ill. Most interesting is the author's credible assertion that the witch-hunts not only paralleled the emergence of a more patriarchal society, but also heralded the disturbing decline in the status of women that continued over the course of the next several centuries. A fascinating historical treatise that provides an evolutionary context for the contemporary proliferation and escalation of violence toward women. " -- Margaret Flanagan Booklist

"Anne Llewellyn Barstow has thought long and hard about witchcraft. To Witchcraze she brings a rich historical understanding of Europe during the period of the persecution of witches....The book is a gold mine of information." -- Ms.

"Barstow's careful and committed scholarship gives us a new and important geography of this woman-hating persecution. She recognizes the sadism and terror of the witch hunts while scrutinizing the economic and sociological dynamics that may have been crucial factors in the murders. Surely we must know what happened to these women and why. Witchcraze brings us closer to the truth." -- Andrea Dworkin, author of Intercourse

"Serious scholarship and accessible style combine here for fascinating reading--and for an important contribution to the history of women (and men). This may well be the first--and best--work to dare view The Burning Time through unashamedly feminist, and truthful, eyes." -- Robin Morgan

"Thought-provoking....Gripping." -- New York Times Book Review

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Customer Reviews

That's not to say the Catholic church didn't participate in the persecution of innocents.
Lisa Marie
My interest in witchcraft is non-academic, but I still found this book to be incredibly dry and suffering badly at the hands of the author's biases.
Countess Chocula
Much like the bias against women that made them likely to be mystics of affective piety (something which few men ever were declared).
J.E. Sawyer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 74 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 19, 1997
Format: Paperback
"Witchcraze" has been justly ignored by the academic community. It's a testament to the human mind's ability to ignore data. Most of Barstow's information is reasonably accurate (though her listing of the death tolls in various countries is severely flawed -- some areas are omitted, others counted twice, and several of the numbers are inaccurate). Unfortunately, Barstow doesn't USE her data! Her theory is that Witch-hunting was caused by misogyny. Her own data shows that a country's level of misogyny bears no correlation to the intensity of its Witch-hunting. Misogyny won't explain where or when Witch-hunting occurred, but Barstow ignores this. She also ignores any evidence that doesn't support her theories. Example: she claims that Iceland didn't persecute Witches. In fact, Iceland killed more Witches than Russia and Ireland, two countries that Barstow does discuss. The difference is, in Iceland 95% of the victims were men. Since Barstow thinks that Witch hunting was women-hunting, she carefully deletes Iceland from the picture.

The worst aspect of this book, though, is that it is chock-full of blatant ethnic and sexual stereotyping. Spain didn't kill many Witches because Spaniards are too chivalrous to do that. Doctors accused wise-women of Witchcraft because male and female healers are "natural enemies". (Barstow quickly glosses over the fact that wise-women did this too -- she certainly doesn't suggest that women were each other's "natural enemies"!) I strongly recommend people to avoid this book. Some of the information is accurate, but you can get better info -- without the stereotyping.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By E. Barrios on August 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
Let me begin by stating I am no authority on the history of witch burnings. However, I do find the subject fascinating and wish I had more time to devote in the reasearch of this subject.

I've read some of the reviews here and will say it's difficult for me to come to the conclusion if Barstow's book is nothing more than a feminist slant on a macabre period in European history. Her book, in my opinion, did tend to focus only on women who were accused of witchcraft. I can't say if this is right or wrong. I only have the unscientific knowledge of these events from Hollywood movies stored in my memory.

All I can say is I found the book's description of the women who were burned at the stake horrible and cruel. It just goes to show you man has changed very little and makes me more of a believer that "might makes right" which is why these atrocities have stopped.

Go ahead and read the book and judge for yourselves. I found it, at the minimum, to be a good primer on the subject.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Frenchbluehen on May 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
I, as did others, have a non-academic interest in the witch hunts, and although I have no opinion on whether or not her data is valid, I found that she repeated the same points and examples throughout all the chapters. I couldn't even finish the book because I had felt that I probably read all the new information and that there wasn't much new to add.

Fortunatly, I picked up the book cheaply and didn't have to use it for a class. I think that the idea was appealing, but the execution of the work fell very short.
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30 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
Most historians have soundly rejected Barstow's theories and methods (in fact, I know a professor who uses one of her books as an example of poor scholarship). Like so many authors today, she simply ignores any evidence which might contradict her viewpoint while "creatively" interpreting the rest.
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40 of 57 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
I first read this book last year when I began studying Early-Modern Witchcraft at Monash University. Barstow's work was misleading then when I knew little on the topic, and laughable now that I know much, much more. Barstow had a pre-conceived idea of what she she wanted to say, and either didn't bother to find, or omitted anything that didn't fit in with her theory. This book says more about feminist politics than Witchcraft history. Gender was the primary focus of her study, and Barstow's world is only understandable in terms of gender (as opposed to the equally important socio-economic, religious and racial factors). Furthermore she believes that only women have gender, this shows an appaling lack of study for more and more accounts are appearing, not only of male witchcraft, but of male gender history.
Witchcraft was too widespread and went on for too long to be so easily pidgeon-holed into terms as obvious or basic as gender. Historical representations of witchcraft should be taken on a case by case basis. Creating "models" for witchcraft (Barstow's elderly, marinalised female among others) does not help the issue, it confuses it.
Anyone starting out serious study in this field would do better to read works by Dianne Purkiss, Deborah Willis or books pertaining to the case in Salem of Hugh Parsons who was the primary witch, his wife the secondary-where does this fit in to Barstow's model? Also, if you must read Barstow- also read the possession at Loudun(Certeau's or Rapley's) to see a witch trial that is the exact opposite of Barstows "norm". To fellow scholars I'd say read Barstow if only to see how one's political agendas or bias can effect your study. Be objective, keep reading and get all sides of the story!
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