chapter
Witchcraft in
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The starting point for this paper must be that the scholarly study of witchcraft in early modem England has more or less stagnated since the appearance, now more than twenty years ago, of two major works: Alan Macfarlane's analysis of Essex witchcraft, published in 1970; and Keith Thomas's magisterial study of witchcraft and associated beliefs, published in 1971.1 The intervening years have seen a steady flow of publications on continental European, Scottish, and colonial American witchcraft and, recently, a number of works of synthesis." But, apart from a few articles,3 little of a scholarly nature has been published for some time on witchcraft in England. Thus the emphases given by Macfarlane and Thomas remain central to our understanding of witchcraft in sixteenth-and seventeenth-century England: the fundamental importance of stresses in interpersonal relations between villagers in generating witchcraft accusations; the idea that these relations were affected by a transference of guilt by richer villagers as their attitudes to the poor altered in the face of socio-economic change; the idea that the prosecution of witchcraft was at its highest in Elizabeth's reign; and the usefulness of applying anthropological concepts (and, in particular; the concepts of British functional anthropology) to historical materials relating to witchcraft. Macfarlane and Thomas's works also reiterated the notion, already present in Wallace Notestein's survey of 1911! that there were marked differences between English and 'continental' witchcraft.