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3.2 out of 5 stars
Witchcraze: New History of the European Witch Hunts
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 1997
"Witchcraze" has been justly ignored by the academic community. It's a testament to the human mind's ability to ignore data. Most of Barstow's information is reasonably accurate (though her listing of the death tolls in various countries is severely flawed -- some areas are omitted, others counted twice, and several of the numbers are inaccurate). Unfortunately, Barstow doesn't USE her data! Her theory is that Witch-hunting was caused by misogyny. Her own data shows that a country's level of misogyny bears no correlation to the intensity of its Witch-hunting. Misogyny won't explain where or when Witch-hunting occurred, but Barstow ignores this. She also ignores any evidence that doesn't support her theories. Example: she claims that Iceland didn't persecute Witches. In fact, Iceland killed more Witches than Russia and Ireland, two countries that Barstow does discuss. The difference is, in Iceland 95% of the victims were men. Since Barstow thinks that Witch hunting was women-hunting, she carefully deletes Iceland from the picture.

The worst aspect of this book, though, is that it is chock-full of blatant ethnic and sexual stereotyping. Spain didn't kill many Witches because Spaniards are too chivalrous to do that. Doctors accused wise-women of Witchcraft because male and female healers are "natural enemies". (Barstow quickly glosses over the fact that wise-women did this too -- she certainly doesn't suggest that women were each other's "natural enemies"!) I strongly recommend people to avoid this book. Some of the information is accurate, but you can get better info -- without the stereotyping.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 27 February 2005
This is the kind of work that gives the feminist contribution to history a bad name. (A double shame in that that contribution has been so important in the recent focus on the importance of studying witchcraft beliefs and demonology in order to better understand the early modern mind.)
I would suggest that prospective readers should use this book only in conjunction with the excellent work of scholarship 'Male Witches in Early Modern Europe' by Lara Apps and Andrew Gow (ISBN 0719057094). In this way they will learn (a) how genuinely academic historians approach statistics in an open and critical fashion and (b) an approach to witchcraft which goes beyond over-simplistic conceptions like 'misogyny' and 'patriarchy' and discusses more complex issues like gender and heresy which are more difficult to understand but in the end offer better explanations of past behaviours.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 10 December 2005
This is a book that focuses on the witch-hunt from the female perspective. Ms Barstow writes well and with a nice fluent style that makes history readable rather than `dusty' or `dry'. There is no doubt she paints a vivid picture of the witch craze in early modern Europe and there are references that point to further reading for those who are interested.
However the author writes from an extremely feminist viewpoint which I found a little overpowering (and I class myself as a feminist). Her prologue focuses on violence against women in modern society and uses that as a comparison for what happened in the witch hunt. There is scant attention paid to the fact that 20% of those accused of witchcraft were men, a significant number. Indeed, in Eastern Europe there were more men accused than women.
Whilst there is no doubt that some misogyny came into play during that time, and that there were awful consequences for women accused of being witches, I would have liked a more balanced view of the witch-hunt rather than one that assumed all judges, witch finders and jailers were sexually abusive toward the (female) accused. The author particularly criticises the notoriously misogynistic `Malleus Maleficarum' whilst seemingly oblivious to the fact she is as guilty of sexism as the authors of that book were.
Ms Barstow does refer to the work of many eminent historians who have written on this topic, but seems to find fault in all of their findings, giving the impression that she is the only one with a `realistic' view of what the witch-hunt was about. This is quite a useful book for the undergraduate studying this period, so long as they balance it with plenty of other reading matter rather than taking this as a definitive text.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 31 March 2013
It is had to exaggerate how awful this book is, another specimen of the worst of 'feminist history.' Well it is a story and it is feminist, but it is not history. Biased, selective, badly written,it is squirmingly awful. In days of yore the facts had to fit marxist theory or Nazi mythology, making most of their products tosh. The particular ideology says this must have been the case, and so it was the case. Facts supporting this are deployed or distorted; facts suggesting otherwise are ignored or reviled. This is not history, it is propaganda. The same goes for this nonsense. Have a theory - all accused of being witches were victims of misogyny - and then ignore some facts, distort others, and make up the rest. Don't let the evidence distract you from men bashing.

There are plenty of good women historians - Tuchman, and Wedgwood spring immediately to mind, plenty of good historians who have wrtten about women, Antonia Fraser for instance, but can there cbe a good 'feminist historian?' Discuss. Even if there could, this is not she. No argument.

This book has no rival other than Bold in her Breeches, and at least it was good for a laugh. This is good only for kindling.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2014
I have been a Luciferian nearly all my life, I believe in a god but none of the other crap that goes with it or the bible, and one thing I have always been proud of is that Lucifer has never asked anyone to kill for him or in his name, don't you think that's funny. The Christian god wants sacrifice and he doesn't care how many are sacrificed in his name or how much blood is spilled, the more the merrier as far as I can see. This book continues the madness that is Christianity, point the finger at anyone who is different and that's it, off to the gallows or the fires for them, the torture done in his name is horrendous yet we are told it is justified. The entire scenario regarding the finding and prosecuting people under the witch craft act was rubbish but used to bring the people back in line as no-one ever knew who would be next. There seems to have been a lot of research gone into regarding witchcraft in order to bring this book to the public that I would personally have thought it should have been available in hard backed copy as it will be a great addition to mine or anyones library. If you are honestly interested in what happened back in the 'good old days' then this book would be a great starting point, there are other books but to me they are so convoluted as to make no sense at all. Start here and progress you wont be disappointed honestly.
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8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 18 January 1998
Well, I'm aware there are some more scholarly, "drier" studies on the subject. But what propels Barstow's volume is its sense of urgency - one that refuses the comfort of modernity and invites us to wonder how it felt to be surrounded by neighbors who were bent on "exorcisms", in what amounts to an official torture cult. Clearly misogyny has many faces (I could do without some of the lesser evils dragged in here for comparison), but its use as a marketing tool for the greedy and ambitious Yuppiedom of the 16th & 17th centuries (England's Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins, was only 25) leaves an especially foul aftertaste, well deserving of more attention like hers.
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8 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 1999
This book is quite simply the best book on the 16th & 17th century witchhunts that I have ever read. Well researched and easy to read (no plowing through dry academic treatises here!) it is one of the few books (besides Leonard Shlain's The Alphabet vs. the Goddess) to link the witch persecutions with the decline in status of women in the 17th century and the decrease of women's contributions to society. Also, many of Barstow's points regarding the scapegoating of poor women are all too relevant to 1990's society (witness "welfare mom bashing".) A must read not only because of the subject matter but because it is well written.
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3 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 1998
even though I don't consider myself a feminist, this book presents an excellent argument against the needless execution of the women of the 16th-18th centuries.
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