The Last Witches of England: A Tragedy of Sorcery and Superstition (Paperback)

The Last Witches of England: A Tragedy of Sorcery and Superstition By John Callow Cover Image

The Last Witches of England: A Tragedy of Sorcery and Superstition (Paperback)

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"Fascinating and vivid." New Statesman
"Thoroughly researched." The Spectator
"Intriguing." BBC History Magazine
"Vividly told." BBC History Revealed
"A timely warning against persecution." Morning Star
"Astute and thoughtful." History Today
"An important work." All About History
"Well-researched." The Tablet

On the morning of Thursday 29 June 1682, a magpie came rasping, rapping and tapping at the window of a prosperous Devon merchant. Frightened by its appearance, his servants and members of his family had, within a matter of hours, convinced themselves that the bird was an emissary of the devil sent by witches to destroy the fabric of their lives. As the result of these allegations, three women of Bideford came to be forever defined as witches. A Secretary of State brushed aside their case and condemned them to the gallows; to hang as the last group of women to be executed in England for the crime. Yet, the hatred of their neighbours endured. For Bideford, it was said, was a place of witches.

Though 'pretty much worn away' the belief in witchcraft still lingered on for more than a century after their deaths. In turn, ignored, reviled, and extinguished but never more than half-forgotten, it seems that the memory of these three women - and of their deeds and sufferings, both real and imagined - was transformed from canker to regret, and from regret into celebration in our own age. Indeed, their example was cited during the final Parliamentary debates, in 1951, that saw the last of the witchcraft acts repealed, and their names were chanted, as both inspiration and incantation, by the women beyond the wire at Greenham Common.

In this book, John Callow explores this remarkable reversal of fate, and the remarkable tale of the Bideford Witches.
John Callow is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Suffolk, UK, who has written widely on early modern witchcraft, politics and popular culture. He is the author of The Making of King James II (2000) and Embracing the Darkness (2005, I.B. Tauris). He has appeared on the BBC Radio 4 documentary It Must be Witchcraft, and the series on the Salem Witches on the Discovery Channel.

Product Details ISBN: 9781350387126
ISBN-10: 1350387126
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Publication Date: September 7th, 2023
Pages: 352
Language: English