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Communities of BeliefCultural and Social Tensions in Early Modern France$
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Robin Briggs

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198206033

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198206033.001.0001

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Witchcraft and the Community in France and French-speaking Europe

Witchcraft and the Community in France and French-speaking Europe

(p.6) (p.7) 1 Witchcraft and the Community in France and French-speaking Europe
Communities of Belief

Robin Briggs

Oxford University Press

More than three centuries have passed since Colbert and Louis XIV put an end to the legal persecution of witches in France in the 1670s, and by the same period trials had largely died out in the French-speaking regions beyond the eastern border of the kingdom proper. Over the past twenty years, the historiography of witchcraft has been transformed by a series of careful scholarly studies, many of them drawing on the techniques of social history and social anthropology. This essay examines witchcraft in French-speaking Europe to understand how judicial atrocities could occur in an age which did have aspirations towards rationality and humanity. This must lead us to consider witchcraft as a nexus of beliefs and practices rooted in local society, so that the persecution of witches is seen to derive from social tensions at local level at least as much as from judicial activity inspired by the ruling classes.

Keywords:   France, French-speaking Europe, witchcraft, witches, beliefs, social tensions, persecution, ruling classes, social history, trials

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