Male Witches in Early Modern Europe by Lara Apps

By Lara Apps

This publication evaluations historians’ assumptions approximately witch-hunting in addition to their causes for this advanced and confusing phenomenon. It indicates that enormous numbers of fellows have been accused of witchcraft of their personal correct, in a few areas, extra males have been accused than girls. The authors insist at the centrality of gender, culture, and concepts approximately witches within the development of the witch as a deadly determine. They problem the marginalization of male witches by way of feminist and different historians.

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Of the thousands of people tried and executed for the crime of witchcraft, 75 to 80 per cent were women. This distinctive feature of early modern witch-hunting aroused little scholarly comment until witchcraft studies entered their ‘golden age’ during the last quarter of the twentieth century; over time, however, the preponderance of women in this grim count has generated a complex, politicised debate over its significance. Much valuable work illuminates the role of early modern notions of gender in witchcraft prosecutions.

More commonly, especially in surveys, male witches are mentioned once or twice and then forgotten, and witches are referred to subsequently as if they were exclusively female. Keith Thomas, for example, draws his readers’ attention to the fact that some witches were men, but then switches to the feminine pronoun: ‘A witch was a person of either sex (but more often female) who could mysteriously injure other people. ’23 Anne Barstow presents a particularly objectionable version of this elision. After explaining that ‘[i]t is through an analysis of the percentage of women and men accused and of the percentage condemned that the gender bias of this persecution emerges’,24 she goes on to say: [ 30 ] chapter1 21/12/04 8:50 am Page 31 TH E H I S TO R IA N A ND T H E MA L E W IT C H Given the chaotic state of the records, the temptation to round off the numbers is strong.

We both like Dr. Martens’ footwear … Scott, Gender and the Politics of History, 29; Andrea Cornwall and Nancy Lindisfarne, ‘Dislocating masculinity: Gender, power and anthropology’, Dislocating Masculinity: Comparative Ethnographies, eds. Andrea Cornwall and Nancy Lindisfarne (London: Routledge, 1994), 11-47: 18. While it allows us to distinguish biological from cultural or ‘socially constructed’ differences between male and female attributes, behaviours, expectations and attitudes, the world of gender theory is a labyrinth of conflicting ideas and interpretations.

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