This is a study of magic in western Europe in the early Middle Ages. Valerie Flint explores its practice and belief in Christian society, and examines the problems raised by so-called `pagan survivals' and superstition'. She unravels the complex processes at work in the early medieval Christian church to show how the rejection of non-Christian magic came to be tempered by a more accommodating attitude: confrontation was replaced by negotiation, and certain practices previously condemned were not merely accepted, but actively encouraged. The forms of magic which were retained, as well as those the church set out to obliterate, are carefully analysed. The `superstitions' condemned at the Reformation are shown to be, in origin, rational and intelligent concessions intended to reconcile coexisting cultures.
Dr Flint explores the sophisticated cultural and religious compromise achieved by the church in this period. This is a scholarly and challenging book, which makes a major contribution to the study of the Christianization of Europe.
`much the most substantial and systematic exploration ... to date ... will be of permanent importance ... Flint's thesis is both significant and provocative ... a big, beautifully written and wonderfully learned book. ... In short, as she observes, Flint has not said the last word on most of the enormous and exciting issues she has raised. But on many of them she has said the first, which is a much more considerable achievement.'
`a scholarly, but inevitably speculative, history of ideas ... the great value of the book is its polite, subtle disruption of the stories that theologians or magicians might like to believe.'
`Flint's book is a signal contribution to the history of ideas and the cultural character of western Europe... It is very clearly organized... She has given us an enthusiastic account of a very positive achievement - `If this be magic, let it be an art lawful as eating'.
Tony Hunt, Medieval World, Jan 1992.
`impressive coverage and sensitivity ... this is a thought-provoking, proficient work, to be highly commended for its contribution to a difficult subject. Its implications for the social history of European Christendom are profound.'
Brian S. Donaghey, Sheffield University, Newsletter of the Social History Society, Spring 1992
'It is a refreshing, liberating approach, and much of its working out in the detail is persuasive and illuminating ... rich in illumination and so rewarding a challenge to customary approaches.'
R.A. Markus, EHR Apr. 92
'There is much thought-provoking and enlightening about this thesis. The material gathered is consistently fascinating. By standing outside established debates ... Flint has arguably brought a freshness of vision to the extraordinary material she has at hand.'
I.N. Wood, History Workshop Journal, Vol. 33, Spring '92
'This book offers a comprehensive survey of the 'magical survivals' in the Christian culture of early medieval Western Europe. Dr Flint sheds fresh light on the modes and the varying contexts of institutionalisation of certain types of magic in early medieval Western Europe. Her book presents a wide range of topics and pertinent information which opens intriguing new avenues for future research and for alternative interpretations.'
Yuri P. Stoyanov, University of London, Journal of Ecclesiastical History
'The Rise of Magic carries the reader along on the wave of a strong argument which is developed in a clear and informative way. One might disagree with the argument, but that is, I believe, exactly what the author is inviting us to do.'
Charles Burnett, Warburg Institute, London University, Heythrop Journal