In fifteenth-century Germany, women were singled out as witches for the first time in history; this book explores why. Sigrid Brauner examines the connections among three central developments in early modern Germany: a shift in gender roles for women; the rise of a new urban ideal of femininity; and the witch hunts that swept across Europe from 1435 to 1750. Brauner shows that the modern notion of the witch as a willful, conniving, promiscuous woman was first established by German Inquisitors in the Malleus maleficarum (1487). In subsequent works by Martin Luther and the sixteenth-century playwrights Paul Rebhun and Hans Sachs, the witch emerged as the counterpart to the new feminine ideal of the urban housewife. By demonstrating how the binary concepts of "good" housewife and "bad wife" (or witch) were propagated among the educated urban elite who presided over witch trials, Brauner suggests that the witch hunts functioned to discipline women who failed to display the docility and subservience expected of the new urban housewife.
Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press