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Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England (Penguin History) Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
This is not to disparage the book which has rightly been described as a classic but it does result in over-simplification in suggesting there 'was a preoccupation with the explanation and relief of human misfortune'. Since the dawn of human observation mankind has been concerned with 'the human condition'. That humans had not learned the importance of diet, the causes of disease and relied on the ideas of Hippocrates, Aristotle and Galen, was simply the importation of cultural norms from previous cultures which were not necessarily religious in origin but were explained in religious terms. Medical treatment was beyond the pockets of many and remained so until the NHS was founded in 1948. In the absence of official medical advice some chose to consult non-qualified practitioners which Thomas cavalierly dismisses as doing patients 'severe or even fatal damage' without mentioning those which worked and are now patented.Read more ›
Its ambition is also largely its undoing. The chief flaws are:
(i) It is epic. Slogging through it in one sitting is deeply inadvisable - this is a book which rewards regular visiting rather than a single extended tour.
(ii) Thomas' categorisation of the evidence is entirely artificial. He imposes a taxonomy of types of magical practice - medicine / astrology / divination / geomancy / witchcraft / folk religion - that originates almost entirely in the mid 20th Century. There was absolutely no consensus at the time on where the dividing lines between different types of practice were drawn, and indeed many practitioners wouldn't have drawn many lines at all.
(iii) The argumentation has big holes in it. The most glaring is the direct contradiction between his position on popular understanding of Christian theology (i.e. that the majority of the population had little or no grasp of Christian doctrine) and his position on folk religion and magic (that there were no widespread folk religions and that most people derived their understanding of magic through the lens of Christian theology - a position hard to maintain if you've already demonstrated people had little grasp of Christian theology).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was prompted to read this book after reading Eamon Duffy's The Tripping of the Altars. A great book to read to appreciate what was happening in England in those good old days. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Sydney
Historian Keith Thomas’ debut monograph has succeeded in standing the test of dozens of critical reviews over the course of the four decades since its original 1971 publication. Read morePublished 5 months ago by AbbeyLauren
A great read. Meticulously researched by this highly respected academic, yet sensitively presented to the reader as a proven history of superstition in England.Published 9 months ago by Stu Kershaw
Well worth reading if your thing is history, it is well researched. Like most books of this ilke it concludes their is no conclusion. Logic and faith are unkown bed fellows. Read morePublished 12 months ago by John Archibald
This is the best and most in-depth work I have ever read on witchcraft and I was able to use it for a well-received presentation on witchcraft in the 17th century. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Ariadne
This outstanding book, which we first heard of in an interview with the singer and historian, Ian Bostridge, was a replacement for a copy that we lost on holiday. Read morePublished 16 months ago by D.E. Brookshaw
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