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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

Chapter:
(p.1) 1 Introduction: the Lancashire witches in historical context
Source:
The Lancashire Witches
Author(s):

James Sharpe

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719062032.003.0001

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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