The Law, the State, and Judges

There are many perspectives from which one can examine the phenomena of witchcraft in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe. Looking at the role of the law, the state, and the individual judges and rulers associated with it is only one of them. Within this subarea, the study must be further broken down. One can not generalize about this period. We have found that the patterns of prosecution varied widely across Europe and North America. In some places, prosecution seems to have occurred in part because of judicial disorganization. In others, certain individuals who were in power found it necessary to have trials. Some places had few trials and no torture. In other places, hundreds of people were tortured and executed within a short period of time. In some places, trials became a part of everyday life. In others, trials were hysterical and furious events.
To show you how trials varied across Europe, here is a map from Robin Brigg's book Witches and Neighbors that shows the intensity of prosecution in central and northern Europe. See a larger version of this map.

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