The Rise of the Witchcraft Craze in 17th Century Britain Essay

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The Rise of the Witchcraft Craze in 17th Century Britain

Accusations of witchcraft date back to 900 AD, but killing following accusation reached a fever pitch in the late 16th century Europe, and late 17th century Britain. Germany and Scotland were the areas that were most heavily purged, with an estimated 4000 witches dying in Scotland and 26 000 dying in Germany (Gibbons). The Inquisition in Britain happened against a backdrop of new ideas competing with established traditions which created a sense of confusion and religious hysteria amongst the general population. A number of theories have developed from historians as to what sparked the witchcraft craze; ideas of the Reformation and rise of
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It could be conceived that this old-fashioned attitude which developed against a backdrop of scientific development, sparked passion in the Puritan church to purge their society of witches. Smith, the secularist historian, and therefore with perhaps a biased view, notes, "A patent cause of the mania was the zeal and bibliolatry of Puritanism". Johnson concurs with this statement by observing, "Above all, Puritanism was the dynamic behind the increase in witch-hunting". Part of the Puritan belief is the creation of a 'land of saints' which meant that Puritans would actively seek to banish evil from their communities, which in the 17th century, took the form of witchcraft. Mainly stimulated by the Civil War, Puritanism rose in credibility and following as a religion. Through the desire to create a 'land of saints' and with papal sanction (Papal Bull 1484), religious believers were legitimately able to accuse any whom they felt were guilty of witchcraft.

The witch hunt itself was seen to be sanctioned by the church. The Papal Bull of 1484, and the translation of the King James bible which featured the section "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (Exodus 22:18) provided the legitimisation for these attacks and meant that the general public could hunt witches and be devoid of