Witch Craze Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany Lyndal Roper

Publication date:
31 Oct 2006
Yale University Press
376 pages: 235 x 156mm
70 b-w illus.


A powerful account of witches, crones, and the societies that make them

From the gruesome ogress in Hansel and Gretel to the hags at the sabbath in Faust, the witch has been a powerful figure of the Western imagination. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries thousands of women confessed to being witches—of making pacts with the Devil, causing babies to sicken, and killing animals and crops—and were put to death. This book is a gripping account of the pursuit, interrogation, torture, and burning of witches during this period and beyond.

Drawing on hundreds of original trial transcripts and other rare sources in four areas of Southern Germany, where most of the witches were executed, Lyndal Roper paints a vivid picture of their lives, families, and tribulations. She also explores the psychology of witch-hunting, explaining why it was mostly older women that were the victims of witch crazes, why they confessed to crimes, and how the depiction of witches in art and literature has influenced the characterization of elderly women in our own culture.

Lyndal Roper is lecturer in history at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Balliol College.

"In this brilliant piece of investigative history [and] . . . thanks to Roper’s patient and sophisticated work . . . we finally have a joined up history of the witch."—The Guardian

"Lyndal Roper is an original and insightful historian of witchcraft, and the publication of this major work is most welcome. Her style is fluent and accessible, but those who examine the 59 pages of closely printed notes will rapidly see the depth of scholarship that underpins her work."—Times Higher Education Supplement

Winner of the 2005 Roland Bainton Prize in the category of History and Theology, sponsored by the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference

"This is a major work that pushes the history of witchcraft in new directions and offers remarkable and sometimes startling new insights. Lyndal Roper breaks new ground in her remarkable, subtle analysis of the interpersonal relations among those caught up in fantasies of witchcraft."—H. C. Erik Midelfort, author of A History of Madness in Sixteenth-Century Germany