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The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts [Paperback]

Owen Davies
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 10.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Nov 2009
The Haunted is the first truly comprehensive social history of ghosts. Using fascinating and entertaining examples, Davies places the history of ghosts within their wider social and cultural context and examines why a belief in ghosts continues to be vibrant, socially relevant and historically illuminating.

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The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts + The Ghost Story 1840-1920: A Cultural History + The Victorian Supernatural (Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (1 Nov 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 023023710X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230237100
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 477,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'A treasure trove of information and insight.' - Beyond Magazine 

'...this is exactly what the world needs: a fresh, original and thorough analysis of the torrent of ghost stories that have been with us since probably the beginnings of language...As the book is both informative and enlightening, I've no hesitation in recommending it.' - Bob Rickard, Fortean Times
'A provocative and splendidly, comprehensively researched book.' - Laurie Taylor, Thinking Allowed, BBC Radio 4 
'In his exhaustive, intelligent and impeccably researched new book, Owen Davies entertainingly delineates the sheer scope of the phenomenon - from medieval superstition to nineteenth-century spiritualism to the present-day abundance of psychics who haunt the murkier channels of digital television.' - Jon Barnes, Times Literary Supplement 
'What is a ghost? Owen Davies suggests that no single definition can cover revenants, angels, devils, fairies, will-o'-the-wisps, or demonic cadavers. The context in which ghosts appear is influenced by contemporary philosophy, religion and science. So, the Reformation in England eradicated the worship of saints and reduced the relevance of angels, leaving ghosts 'the sole manifest representatives of the afterlife for most Anglicans'. Davies is no debunker: with the best rational will in this world (and in the next) he considers the phenomena from the Dark Ages to our own New Age.' - Iain Finlayson, The Times 
'An admirable achievement.' - Peter Marshall, University of Warwick, UK 
'A fascinating and authoritative cultural history, packed with illuminating stories.' - Malcolm Gaskill, University of East Anglia, UK 
'Owen Davies has produced the most comprehensive, lively and perceptive cultural history of English ghosts ever written.' - Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol, UK 
'I commend it as one of the best books I have read on the subject' - Peter Maxwell-Stuart, University of St Andrews 

'This is a well-written and researched book that gives an interesting overview of the common beliefs about ghosts from the Middle Ages to the 18th century...Recommended.' - The Cauldron 
'Davies packs his book with a wealth of detail and constantly referes to contemporary documents, but the wider scope makes for a more interesting read, with the reader able to follow various strands down through the years.' - Peter Tennant, Black Static No. 4
'Over the last few years scholars in the humanities have begun to take historical narratives featuring ghosts seriously and Davies makes a significant contribution to the emerging debates on the subject. In summing up the book I cannot better the view of P.G. Maxwell-Stuart given on the back of the dust jacket, "intelligent, fascinating and very readable.' - John Newton, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research

Book Description

A lively and comprehensive history of ghosts from the medieval period to the present, placing the history of hauntings firmly within their wider social and cultural context.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing read & a thorough history. 12 Nov 2009
The Introduction to this captivating and fascinating book proclaims "England has long had a reputation for being haunted". This reputation and our love affair with ghosts is primarily a result of cultural, social and religious change over the past 500 years and it is these aspects of ghosts that the author investigates.

Davies begins with a chapter entitled `Manifestation' where personal characteristics, times of haunting, the dress and lifespan of ghosts is discussed. There follows the geography of haunting and analysis of how social changes have affected ghost sightings in certain locations. For example, ghosts are rarely reported in churchyards today because fewer people go to church and hence fewer people find themselves in churchyards. Allied to this is the fact that public cemeteries are now located away from areas of housing. This is a far cry from the 19th century when churchyards were a much more important space, not just on a religious level, but also a social and recreational one.

Changing attitudes to religion has shaped the belief in ghosts and our reactions to them. For example, an early argument was that if you believe in God then almost by default you believe in ghosts because they are proof of an afterlife. However, after the Reformation ghost belief was viewed as Catholic `superstition' by Protestants and later a rejection of ghosts was seen as a useful foil to being accused of having Methodist sympathies.

Cases of `fraudulent' ghosts such as the Cock Lane Ghost could damage reputations. Hence Samuel Johnson's refusal to dismiss ghosts and the link the public made between Johnson and the Cock Lane Ghost damaged his reputation as a beacon of the Enlightenment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Both meticulous and exciting 16 Nov 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a serious academic account of ghost-lore in England, but Davies is also alive to the entertainment potential of the history of popular beliefs.

He knows his way around the existing sources, which allows him both to present the titillating and terrifying stories that haunted our forebears, but also to give the reader some idea of why records survive of particular hauntings, and what problems face the historian of popular culture when dealing with phenomena that were actively disapproved by religious and secular authorities.

This is both a highly informative survey (with a gentle argument about the continuing relevance of spirits in "modern" cultures) and a good read. There are some particularly engrossing tales of pranksters and bystanders mistaken for ghosts and killed... Chilling stuff.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Metaghosts 23 Aug 2013
By Karen S. Garvin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are looking to read a ghost story, this is not the book to reach for. Owen Davies writes about the social history of ghosts, as the book's subtitle clearly states. What is not be clear from the book's title is that the focus is on the history of ghosts in Great Britain. I was aware of that when I bought it, so I am not disappointed that there is no discussion of American spirits or those found on the Continent or elsewhere in the world. Still, as Owen writes in the first sentence of his Introduction, "England has long had a reputation for being haunted." My English mother had a few ghost stories to tell me, and I grew up reading about ghosts and the various pixies and elves and other folk that inhabited fen and forest.

There are eight chapters broken into three sections: Experience, Explanation, and Representation. Davies writes with a sureness that seems to indicate a long time spent researching the topic, and I have no reason to doubt his comfort level with the material. As this is the first social history that I've read about hauntings or the history of psychic phenomena, I don't feel qualified to submit Davies's material to deep scrutiny, but the book is well cited and there are ample notes for anyone who wants to read more deeply in the subject.

Despite being an academic volume, there are places where Davies indulges in a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, but he stops short of mocking his subjects. Clearly, for many people ghosts and spirits and demons were real, not just figments of the imagination. But for others, ghosts provided an avenue for earning a bit of extra cash by duping the gullible. What did surprise me was how popular the ghost chases were in Victorian times: I had thought that all of the ghost hunting was of a more recent vintage (as in, the TV generation). In some instances, crowds filled the streets, vying for a chance to spot a ghost, and made nuisances of themselves to local residents.

The book also includes some history of the role of ghosts in theater and literature, especially the gothic novel. In one story Davies relates, a rather portly actor who was portraying a ghost got stuck in the stage trapdoor when he was trying to "disappear." The actor, to the audience's delight, made light of the incident and turned the accident into a humorous event. Gems like this dot the book and will probably left me wanting more -- definitely a good thing.

The pace was even and Davies writes clearly. In just 250 pages of text, there is an incredible amount of information in here about the history of English ghosts' interaction with the living. Most of the information ranges from the 18th century to present day, but there are a few bits about earlier ghost stories and sightings. A good read and an excellent reference, The Haunted will be a keeper in my library.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 9 Oct 2013
By C. Hunter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The author offers a comprehensive look at how and when and why ghosts are experienced, primarily in Great Britain. Ghostly phenomenon are taken seriously without venturing a position about whether these are verifiable or real. For a scholar, Davies writes very well, making this an entertaining, informative read.
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