chapter  9
16 Pages

The Law, Torture and Trial

The level of legal prosecutions for witchcraft rose in the fifteenth century, declined in the first half of the sixteenth, and reached a peak in the century after 1560, almost disappearing in the last three decades of the seventeenth. The latter period of increase reflected expanded judicial exertion more than the proliferation of diabolic activity. This judicial activity involved the delineation of the crime, and the codification of procedures as well as the escalation in prosecutions. Across Europe the level of prosecution varied considerably. The law was a weapon for social control and the establishment used it to define acceptable behaviour. The legal code made manifest the principle of inversion. The conventional world was protected by proscribing its opposite.'