Special Subject: Witches and Witch-Hunts Part B (V1473B)

15 credits, Level 6

Spring teaching

This module examines witchcraft beliefs and the witch-hunts that occurred across Europe and Colonial America between 1500 and 1750. We will consider the origins of medieval witchcraft beliefs, as well as the legacy of supernatural beliefs in the modern world. There were an estimated 100,000 trials of witchcraft in the early modern period, and almost half the number of executions. Witch-hunts were overwhelmingly directed against women, but it was not solely a female crime. One quarter of witchcraft trials in Germany were of men; over 95% of witchcraft trials in Iceland were male. How can we explain the gendering of witchcraft beliefs? And how can we explore the psychological complexities of the witchcraft trial: the motives of the interrogators, the role of torture, and the emotions of the accused? Why did some people voluntarily confess to this crime, and how did others avoid the stake, as almost half of accused witches did? Did stereotypes of the witch match up to the reality of those who were accused?

Part A of this module (autumn term) will cover key topics and themes such as:

  • the origins of the diabolical pact
  • the gendering of witchcraft
  • male witches, youth, and old age
  • emotions and witchcraft
  • methodologies for reading witch-trials
  • witchcraft in the early modern community.

We will examine a range of primary sources, including trial transcripts and pamphlets, demonological treatises, and visual representations of the witch. In Part B, we will continue to explore these key themes through a variety of case studies, including the witch-hunts in England, the Salem witch panic, demonic possession, witchcraft in literature and the stage, and the material culture of witchcraft.


100%: Seminar


50%: Coursework (Essay)
50%: Written assessment (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 22 hours of contact time and about 128 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2023/24. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to COVID-19, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: