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Instruments of Darkness: Witchcraft in Early Modern England Paperback – 1 Aug 1997


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press; Reprint edition (1 Aug 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812216334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812216332
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 57,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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First Sentence
As has been argued when reviewing the origins and development of the 'European witch craze', belief in witchcraft was, for educated and uneducated people alike, only one aspect of a broader intellectual system that incorporated other elements which the modern observer would regard as 'irrational' or 'superstitious'. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
James Sharpe, who is an authority on crime in Early Modern England has written the last word on witchcraft in that period and country. This is fitting because the dark art was treated as criminal – and indeed as a capital offence. Hugh Trevor-Roper’s European Witch-Craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries was little more than an essay, though it dealt with a much wider geographical area; and it was largely based on treatises. Sharpe’s book is far more substantial, despite its narrower focus. It is based on a wide variety of sources, including an exhaustive analysis of trials.

This book is one of many which has caused me to change my youthful view of the so-called English Revolution of 1640-60.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!

The picture of those years painted by Christopher Hill was indeed enchanting. But it did obscure, or fail to explain, the horrors, including the violence done by the Army to constitutional government in England, Cromwell’s treatment of Ireland and the unprecedented series of witch-hunts in East Anglia in 1645-7. How could a Revolution which was supposed to bring progress, enlightenment and scientific advance all at the same time, also bring us Matthew Hopkins? Sharpe provides several answers, but there is still a puzzle if we cling to the Whig or Marxist analysis of the Civil War. It we look at it as a Revolution, and on the whole as a ‘good thing’, the renewed interest in witchcraft is indeed hard to explain. If we look at it in the same way as the Earl of Clarendon did – as a Rebellion, and a ‘bad thing’ – we may change our mind on many things.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ben VINE VOICE on 5 Mar 2006
Format: Paperback
An excellent introduction to the controversial subject of witchcraft.
Despite a wealth of scholarly detail this book is extremely easy to read and full of pithy insights and guides to further reading. The historiographical chapter at the beginning will be especially useful to newcomers.
I particularly enjoy this author's combination of witty scepticism and deep respect for the people of early modern England. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. M. W. Wabe on 25 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was researching a lecture on witches and witchcraft in East Anglia and this is an excellent source book, packed with information
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