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 53: Cats and Dogs in History

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guest: Francesca Consagra, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Paintings, Blanton Museum of Art

Takahashi Hiroaki (Shotei), Published by Fusui Gabo Cat Prowling Around a Staked Tomato Plant, 1931 Woodblock print, 20 7/8 x 13 7/8 in. The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Gift of Stephanie Hamilton in memory of Leslie A. Hamilton

Our first episode of season 3 features the curator of the exhibition In the Company of Cats and Dogs. We consider some of the inherent personalities and temperaments of these animals as well as those imposed or projected by humans onto them. Throughout history, these animals have been viewed and represented as family members, hunters of prey, strays, and as figures and symbols in mythological, religious, political, and moral images.

Guest Francesca Consagra helps us make connections across centuries and genres and underscores our complex relationships to these animals, revealing the many ways in which they say as much about us as we do about them.

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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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