The Night Battles and Peasants of Early Modern Europe

884 Words Nov 5th, 2013 4 Pages
The Night Battles
Composing of most of the European population in the 1500’s and 1600’s, peasants played an important role in the development of Europe. In his book The Night Battles, Carlo Ginzburg gives a unique perspective on the lives of Friulian peasants through the analysis of inquisitorial records. During the inquisitions, peasants were categorized as witches or benandanti, which literally means well-farer. “The benandanti were a small group of men and women, who because they were born with a caul, were regarded as professional antiwitches. They told inquisitors that, in dreams, they fought ritual battles against witches and wizards to protect their villages and harvests from harm.” (Ginzburg. Back Cover) Although the lives of the
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23) The lives of most peasants from the early modern period also depended on agriculture, as most lived on farmland and depended on a good harvest for money and freedom. However, in order to protect their crops, the early modern peasant depended on farming techniques and tools such as the “three-field system” and innovations such as the use of mills and metal harvesting. (Merriman. 15) Although their ways of taking care of their crops differed, nonetheless, agriculture was perhaps the single most important part of a peasant’s life.
Two similarities between the Friulian benandanti and the average peasant of the early modern period, is the fact that they are both uneducated and subsequently influenced very easily. These two things come hand-in hand, as the education level of peasants made it easy for them to be influenced. Early modern peasants contributed greatly to the rise of the Renaissance and the Reformation particularly because of their vulnerability to outside influences. Although education was limited for the upper class during the Renaissance, and books were limited, the minds of Christian peasants were also subjected to change during the time. This was no different for benandanti peasants who according to Ginzburg were also introduced to humanism. Peasant, Niccolo Pellizzaro was condemned in 1595 for saying that “the benedictions which priests