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The Lancashire WitchesHistories and Stories$
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Robert Poole

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780719062032

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719062032.001.0001

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Introduction: the Lancashire witches in historical context

Introduction: the Lancashire witches in historical context

(p.1) 1 Introduction: the Lancashire witches in historical context
The Lancashire Witches

James Sharpe

Manchester University Press

This chapter provides an introduction to the Lancashire witches in the context of history, giving an outline of what happened in 1612 and 1633–34. Lancashire was a county where witchcraft was considered a recurring problem. It was not only the location of important witch trials in 1612 and of an incipiently major witch-scare in 1633–34, but also an area where a variety of witch beliefs flourished. The Lancashire prosecutions of 1612 and 1633 are important in demonstrating how witch-beliefs developed. This chapter discusses two initial sets of issues related to the Lancashire witches. The first is the notion that there was a distinctive English witchcraft, which is contrasted with a more exotic and demonically driven continental witchcraft. This idea has been severely challenged because it is intrinsically implausible to posit the existence of a unified continental witchcraft. Secondly, close reading of accounts of witch trials between the mid sixteenth and early eighteenth centuries suggest the anxiety of the time that a theologically correct view of witchcraft be spread among the populace. Furthermore, the chapter attempts to explain why the witch trials occurred, particularly those of 1612.

Keywords:   Lancashire witches, witch-scare, Lancashire prosecution, unified continental witchcraft, English witchcraft

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