Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Paperback)Jeffrey Burton Russell (author)
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All the known theories and incidents of witchcraft in Western Europe from the fifth to the fifteenth century are brilliantly set forth in this engaging and comprehensive history. Building on a foundation of newly discovered primary sources and recent secondary interpretations, Jeffrey Burton Russell first establishes the facts and then explains the phenomenon of witchcraft in terms of its social and religious environment, particularly in relation to medieval heresies.
Russell treats European witchcraft as a product of Christianity, grounded in heresy more than in the magic and sorcery that have existed in other societies. Skillfully blending narration with analysis, he shows how social and religious changes nourished the spread of witchcraft until large portions of medieval Europe were in its grip, "from the most illiterate peasant to the most skilled philosopher or scientist." A significant chapter in the history of ideas and their repression is illuminated by this book. Our enduring fascination with the occult gives the author's affirmation that witchcraft arises at times and in areas afflicted with social tensions a special quality of immediacy.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Weight: 539 g
Dimensions: 222 x 146 x 27 mm
"A magnificent history. . . . Russell's survey of modern literature on the subject is in itself almost a major contribution, and his careful period-by-period and phase-by-phase description of the development of witchcraft through the fifteenth century is indispensable to any further serious treatment of the phenomenon in Europe."--Georgia Review
"The study of witchcraft is of more than fleeting interest. To understand this phenomenon is to acquire a more profound understanding of man, society, and self. Thus Russell's book is of singular importance. . . . With insight the author demonstrates how political, social, economic, religious, and intellectual developments either fostered or militated against the growth of witchcraft."--Church History
"Russell fills a real gap in the literature. He does so with the scholarly probity and sound good sense that arc the absolute prerequisites for any serious work on the subject, and he has composed his book for the general reader as well as the specialist. . . . In the course of his narrative Russell successfully lays to rest any number of erroneous 'well-known facts, ' and he demonstrates that classical witchcraft was largely a creature of Christianity and that heresy was the strongest influence on its development as an idea."--History
"Russell's contribution will undoubtedly become a standard reference work on witchcraft. It is a clear, straightforward account resting on meticulous textual analysis and comprehensive documentation."--The Review of Books and Religion