Authored by: Martine Ostorero

The Routledge History of Medieval Magic

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781472447302
eBook ISBN: 9781315613192
Adobe ISBN:


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Despite their apparent similarity, the historiography of magic does not always intersect with the historiography of witch-hunting. The former focuses mainly on practices and rituals that were recorded by a relatively large literary production in the last centuries of the Middle Ages. The methods of production, sources of inspiration, circulation and reception of magical knowledge, along with its socio-economic impact, have been the subject of renewed attention in recent decades. Supported by these developments, critical editions of magical texts (in a broad sense) are being produced more and more frequently. Conversely, historians of witchcraft concentrate on its repression, which intensified only at the very end of the Middle Ages, in particular the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries. This is dependent on the sources available, that is to say – taking those which are most significant – an abundance of juridical material, a multitude of procedural manuals, doctrinal tracts or pamphlets against so-called male and female witches, as well as various official condemnations stemming from secular or ecclesiastical authorities. Most of these documents were produced by those who took part in the repression of witchcraft, and a very small proportion by possible male and female witches themselves. Due to the disparity between documentary sources relating to magic and witchcraft trials, a dialogue between the two fields is not always guaranteed, although it would lead to each increasing its respective knowledge base and both being better able to explore the continuities and points of difference between magic and witchcraft.

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