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Europe's Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians In Medieval Christendom [Paperback]

Norman Cohn

Price: 14.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 Oct 1993
In this ground-breaking book, Professor Norman Cohn traces popular beliefs about witches to their origins. He examines the fantasies that inspired the great European witch-hunt of the 16th and 17th centuries when thousands of innocent people were tortured and burned alive. It is a fascinating history of the need to imagine antihuman conspiracies and an investigation of how those fantasies made the great European witch-hunt possible. In addition, Professor Cohn's discovery that some influential sources on witch trials were forgeries has revolutionized the field of witchcraft studies, making this one of the most essential books ever written on the subject.

Frequently Bought Together

Europe's Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians In Medieval Christendom + The Pursuit Of The Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages + Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come (Yale Nota Bene)
Price For All Three: 44.53

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; 2nd Revised edition edition (7 Oct 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712657576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712657570
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13.4 x 2.2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 338,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"It is not too much to say that Professor Cohn has revolutionised the study of the subject - It is a brilliant book." (Bernard Levin Observer)

"An indispensable study." (Robin Lane Fox Financial Times)

"This is a book of real stature which I hope will have a side impact. Only if we begin to understand the horrifying recesses of the human imagination can we prevent the recurrences of those dreadful, irrational persecutions which have so disfigured human history." (Anthony Storr)

Book Description

'This is a book of real stature which I hope will have a side impact. Only if we begin to understand the horrifying recesses of the human imagination can we prevent the recurrences of those dreadful, irrational persecutions which have so disfigured human history.' Anthony Storr

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegantly Written -- The Intellectual Roots of Witch Hunts 30 Jan 2001
By James Wood - Published on
Witch-hunts have erupted again and again throughout the history of Western civilization. The accusations are remarkably similar and stable over time. A group of "witches" or "devil worshippers" are accused of sacrificing and eating children, engaging in incestuous orgies, and worshipping a "god" in animal form who presides over the obscene rituals. The first such accusations were leveled against the early Christians, culminating in a bloody persecution in the (then) Roman city of Lyons. The most recent example occurred in the United States in the 1980s and early 1990s, when similar accusations were made against teachers and child-care workers across the United States in the "daycare ritual abuse panic" that included the McMartin, Country Walk, and Kelly Michaels cases. In "Europe's Inner Demons", Norman Cohn shows how the "fantasy" of witch-cults grew and took shape during the early Christian era, leading to persecutions of heretics such as the Waldensians, orthodox Catholic Crusaders such as the Order of the Knights Templar, and finally the Great European Witch Hunt, which eventually spilled over into North America in the famous Salem Witch Trials. This is one of the most informative books on witchcraft available, elegantly written, and relatively short. It will appeal to anyone who is seriously interested in witch-craft, organized persecutions, or the history of religious thought. More importantly, it will provide a deeper understanding of the "fantasy" of witch sects and bloody satanic cults that still lives in our own country and our own time.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic of Historical Writing and Sober Thinking 30 Oct 2001
By Ricky Hunter - Published on
Norman Cohn's Europe's Inner Demons (The Demonization of Christians in Medieval Christendom) originally came out in 1975 and is a nice companion piece to his Pursuit of the Millennium book. It has remained in print because it is a sober analysis of the fantasies behind the persecutions of such dissenting Christians as the Waldensians which led horribly to the great witch-hunts of the early modern period. The author helps remove much of the scholary nonsense that had accumulated onto the historical concept of witches in the past two centuries and puts them into their proper historical context. The book begins with a wonderfully enlightening glimpse of antiquity that is both illuminating and horrifying as the later fantasies against witches are first seen being used by Romans against early Christians. This is a well-argued and presented book that deserves to remain in circulation as long as people continue to believe there was truth behind the accusations direct at these persecuted and demonized Christians of the Middle Ages. A superb book.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How the Great Witch Hunt Really Started 16 Jun 2002
By "badric" - Published on
Europe's Inner Demons is a fascinating account of how some generally harmless traditions and superstitions combined to make the massive witch hunts of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries possible. There are no conclusive figures, but it is generally agreed that several thousands of men, women and children were executed during this period across Western Europe. With the only exception of England, where this phenomenon never really caught on, this was a widespread practice in countries as different as Spain, Portugal, Scotland, Sweden, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands and particularly in France and Germany. But how did it all begin? Why was Eastern Europe and the rest of the world virtually untouched by this phenomenon? And how did the educated classes came to believe the ancient peasant superstitions that allowed the Great Witch Hunt to take place?
You'll find all the answers in Norman Cohn's stunning piece of historical detective work; an exhaustively researched and brilliantly written book that doesn't deal with the Great Witch Hunt itself but with the societies and traditions were it originated, in some cases stretching as far back as classical Greece and Rome. Also prominent are the persecutions of members of several heretical sects throughout Middle Ages and even religious orders like the Templars. Norman Cohn also analyses the works of modern "specialist" like Margaret Murray and Montague Summers and concludes that the reality was more complex and definitely less glamorous than they thought.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proper context 21 Nov 2005
By NoMan - Published on
It's hard to really be thankful for Cohn's work until one realizes the commonly believed myths that were proposed by various other authors. By doing an exhaustive primary source investigation, Cohn found out that many of the quotations used to support the belief that the witchhunt craze was caused by men persecuting a group of witches who believed in Diana to be false.

In reality, Cohn finds that many times, the women were persecuted by other women. The crime? Having crops that were good while a neighbor's were bad, welching on a debt, (the person that forfeited the debt accused the other of witchcraft), and a whole host of other petty reasons. There is no reason to believe that it had anything to do with female "mid-wives and healers". The majority were either very young girls who had been neglected, or very old women who were known for being cranky.

Cohn also helps illuminate the monastic changes that were ongoing in society that helped to promote the belief in witches. In particular, members of monastic orders increasingly felt powerless against demons and felt that they could not be stopped even using sacraments and prayers. The schism between Catholicism and Protestantism further caused reactionary tendencies in the people, witnessed by the fact that the place's with the greatest witchhunting craze were hit hardest by the schism.

In short, this is a sober and scholarly analysis of a subject that can cause great inflammation amongst certain groups. (Wiccans). The book tells more about social pressures and the delusion of crowds than it does about the demonization of christians, but it should nonetheless be required reading on the subject of witchcraft persecution.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than I expected 23 Oct 2005
By Tim Johnson - Published on
I found Cohn's book fascinating and informative but ultimately too deep for this general reader. Cohn did not write the book that I was expecting to read-this is certainly nothing negative about him or his book, I just found that he seemed to be aiming his book at an audience that were scholars in this particular field.

Throughout most of the book Cohn presented a historiography of the late medieval and early modern period of Europea history regarding the various interpretations of the epistological ramifications of the witch burning period in 16th century Europe. On the first page of his Preface, the author writes, "The essence of the fantasy [this being something that Europeans were warring against] was that there existed, somewhere in the midst of the great society, another society, small and clandestine, which not only threatened the existence of the great society but was also addicted to practices which were felt to be wholly abominable, in the litteral sense of anti-human.

For most of the book the author argues the certitude of this thesis while arguing against the various alternative interpretations being floated about this terrible period in human history. I found his thesis and the defense of that thesis compelling and in the process acquired many salient bits of information about this fascinating but horrible period.

Cohn deals with this confusing time well-he writes in a style that even a non-expert such as myself can follow, which is no small accomplisahment. I would recommend this book to any person who knows something of the period and wishes to delve more deeply into the mystery of what convulsed a continent after passing through the Middle Ages.
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