The period of European history from 1500 to 1800 saw the rise of modern science and philosophy. It was also a period in which thousands of witch trials and executions were carried out.
This course will seek to understand how these seemingly contradictory developments could have occurred simultaneously. The course will examine changing conceptions of the witch and witchcraft in their historical, intellectual, cultural, religious, and political contexts. Questions that will be addressed include: How did the renaissance interest in magic influence the early modern understanding of witchcraft? What impact did concerns about popular religion have on the witch trials? What constituted evidence that someone was a witch? What did early modern scientists think about witchcraft? The course will pay special attention to early modern notions of gender and sexuality and their influence on the witch hunts and witch trials.