Size: 198 x 124mm
Extent: 464 pages
Illustrations: 31 illustrations
For over 500 years witches, male and female, practised magic for both harm and good in their communities.
Most witches worked locally, used by their neighbours to cure illness, create love, or gratify personal spite against another. Margaret Lindsay from Northumberland was prosecuted for making men impotent, John Stokes in London for curing fevers, Collas de la Rue on Guernsey for killing people by witchcraft, and Isobel Gowdie in Auldearn for a variety of offences including consorting with Satan and fairies.
In the fifteenth century witches attacked a succession of English monarchs using enchanted images, and in the sixteenth they also sought ways to kill James VI of Scotland. In response a series of Acts of Parliament were passed which made much magic criminal and punished offenders severely, until a final Act in 1735 repealed them.
This impressive history shines a new light on witches, their magic, and the attempts to eradicate them throughout the British Isles, altering our picture of who witches were and why people employed them but also tried to suppress them.
P. G. Maxwell-Stuart is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of St Andrews. He lives in St Andrews.