"Explain the varying incidence of witch hunts in time and place across Europebetween 1500 and 1700".

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Introduction

Dean Miller History 2nd MA Semester 1 3. "Explain the varying incidence of witch hunts in time and place across Europe between 1500 and 1700". Matriculation Number: 02 203015 5 Tutor: Martine van Ittersum "Explain the varying incidence of witch hunts in time and place across Europe between 1500 and 1700". It has been estimated that during the period of 1500 to 1700 around nine million 'witches' were burnt at the stake throughout the European continent. The aim of this essay is to compare and contrast different time periods and specific areas of Europe between 1500 and 1700, and critically asses how the so-called witch-craze unravelled. From the period of 1500 to 1700 witches came to symbolize superstitious aspects of popular religion. Catholic and Protestant churchmen identified and persecuted witches as part of the campaign to acculturate the masses with 'acceptable' beliefs. Witch hunts peaked during the first half of the Seventeenth Century. In the south-western states of the Holy Roman Empire alone, it is estimated that more than 300 separate witch trials resulted in the execution of 2,500 people between 1570 and 1630, almost all women - in itself not surprising as church authorities and priests were all male.

Middle

In most regions the execution rate was less than 70% and some areas such as Essex, Ostrobothinia and Geneva it was less than 25%. Only in the Pays de Vaud did the execution rate reach the severe level of 90%. (Levack, 1995, Page 18) Brian Levack predicts that if allowances are made for the lost trial records, then the total number of persons who were actually tried for with-craft throughout Europe probably did not greatly exceed 100,000. According to Levack, half of these lived in German lands within the Holy Roman Empire. (Levack, 1995, Page 18) In the 1930's Heinrich Himmler organised a project to obtain information regarding persons tried for magic and witch-craft within Europe. Himmler yielded a file containing some 30,000 prosecutions, the great majority of which had taken place in Germany. Within this file some entries contain the name of more than one person, and since the records of many prosecutions are for one reason or another not included in the file, the total number of German executions could easily have been 50,000. (Palmer, 1961) The witch hunt during the period of 1500 to 1700 varied from region to region.

Conclusion

(Levack, 1995, Page 18) In conclusion then, the witch hunt that began around 1450 virtually came to an end by 1700. At current estimates, around 100,000 people were put to do death mostly by burning at the stake during this period. Around 80% of these people were women, mostly old, poor and ill-educated. There are many explanations as to why there was a witch hunt, and many of them taken on their own are somewhat unconvincing; the witch hunt was a complex phenomenon and it seems that no single cause can account for it. Any proper explanation of the witch hunt has to have an answer for why the hunt stared when it did, why it stopped when it did, why it has the specific demographics it has, why the accused were mainly, though not exclusively women, and why the charges and punishments were framed as they were. It is clear that the incidences of the European witch hunt varied somewhat between 1500 and 1700. Although an exact figure will never be known as to how many innocent people became victim to the 'witch craze' it does appear that recent scholarship has tended to reduce exaggerations made by past historians, which have appeared in some contemporary accounts in continental Europe.

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