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Between the Devil and the HostImagining Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland$
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Michael Ostling

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199587902

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587902.001.0001

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Contexts

Contexts

Chapter:
(p.10) (p.11) 1 Contexts
Source:
Between the Devil and the Host
Author(s):

Michael Ostling

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587902.003.0002

Until very recently, the historiography of witchcraft in Poland treated the subject as an object lesson in the dangers of fanaticism, superstition, and feudal oppression; only in the last fifteen years have new studies challenged this view. It is difficult to estimate the number of trials of accused and of executed witches, due to the destruction of archives during World War II. Estimates from the mid-twentieth century are certainly far too high. Minimum figures of 558 executed, out of 1,316 accused in 867 trials, have been established by Małgorzata Pilaszek; a reasonable estimate of executions might be in the range of 2,000. Accused witches were overwhelmingly peasants or commoner townspeople, more than 90 percent were women; many were married and there is no clear pattern related to age.

Keywords:   historiography of witchcraft, fanaticism, archives, number of trials, demographics, peasants, women

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