Episode 55: Witch-hunting in Early Modern Europe

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guest: Brian Levack, John E. Green Regents Professor in History, University of Texas at Austin

Stories of witches and witch-hunting in early modern Europe have captivated us for centuries. During the early modern period of European history, stretching from roughly 1450 to about 1750, about 100,000 people—most of them women—were tried for the crime of witchcraft. About half of these people were executed, in most cases by burning at the stake. But witchcraft is more than just a Halloween story–for the men and women involved it was a very real, very frightening aspect of daily life.

Guest Brian Levack explains that, at its heart, accusations of witchcraft and sorcery are based in the all too human need to explain the ordinary cycles of birth, death, sickness, wellness, and the constant struggle between rich and poor.

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Episode 28: “Demonic Possession” in Early Modern Europe

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guest: Brian Levack, John E. Green Regents Professor in History, University of Texas at Austin

LevackMariazellDescriptions of common men and women convulsing violently, speaking in tongues,  expelling foreign objects like nails and pins, and levitating above their beds seem ripped out of the pages of a bestselling horror novel, or the plot to a (hopeful) blockbuster movie. But, in fact, medieval church records from the 16th and 17th century recount hundreds of cases like these, in which the afflicted was reported to be possessed by a demon or the Devil himself.

In this supernatural-themed episode (just in time for Halloween!), guest Brian Levack talks about his latest book The Devil Within: Possessions and Exorcism in the Christian West, and his research into the deeper social causes and meanings of these alleged “demonic possessions” in early modern Europe.

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