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The ‘Malleus Maleficarum‘ and the construction of witchcraft

Theology and popular belief

By Hans Broedel

The ‘Malleus Maleficarum‘ and the construction of witchcraft

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Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-6441-8
  • Pages: 224
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £16.99
  • Published Date: November 2003
  • BIC Category: Humanities / European history, Popular Beliefs & Controversial Knowledge, HISTORY / Renaissance, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Folklore & Mythology, European history, European history: Renaissance, History
  • Series: Studies in Early Modern European History

Description

The Malleus is an important text and is frequently quoted by authors across a wide range of scholarly disciplines. Yet it also presents serious difficulties: it is difficult to understand out of context, and is not generally representative of late medieval learned thinking. This, the first book-length study of the original text in English, provides students and scholars with an introduction to this controversial work and to the conceptual word of its authors.

Like all witch-theorists, Institoris and Sprenger constructed their witch out of a constellation of pre-existing popular beliefs and learned traditions. Therefore, to understand the Malleus, one must also understand the contemporary and subsequent debates over the reality and nature of witches. This book argues that although the Malleus was a highly idiosyncratic text, its arguments were powerfully compelling and therefore remained influential long after alternatives were forgotten. Consequently, although focused on a single text, this study has important implications for fifteenth-century witchcraft theory.

This is a fascinating work on the Malleus Maleficarum and will be essential to students and academics of late medieval and early modern history, religion and witchcraft studies.

Reviews

Broedel has provided an excellent study, not only of the Malleus and its authors, but just as importantly, of the intellectual context in which the Malleus must be set and the theological and folk traditions to which it is, in many ways, an heir.

Peter Maxwell-Stuart, St Andrews University

Contents

1. Introduction
2. Authors and arguments
3. The inquisitors' Devil
4. Misfortune, witchcraft and the will of god
5. Witchcraft: The formation of belief, part one -- evidence and interpretation
6. Witchcraft: The formation of belief, part two
7. Witchcraft as an expression of female sexuality
Bibliography

Author

Hans Peter Broedel is Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Hamilton College, New York

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