This book is about the significance of witchcraft in English public life (c.1650-c.1750), and deals with contemporary opinion regarding its theological, philosophical, and legal dimensions. Ian Bostridge discusses civil war politics, the writings of Thomas Hobbes, the debate about witchcraft at the time of the Glorious Revolution, and the disputes surrounding the repeal of Jacobean witchcraft legislation in 1736. He also examines the work of less familiar writers and propagandists such as Richard Boulton, Francis Hutchinson, and James Erskine of Grange, and balances this account of the gradual demise of witchcraft theory in Britain with a comparative case study of the debate in France. Finally, by asserting that witchcraft remained a serious topic of debate well into the eighteenth century, and that its descent into polite ridicule had as much to do with politics as with the birth of reason, Witchcraft and its Transformations offers a lively critique of current interpretations of English popular culture and political change.
arresting and thought-provoking book./ IWitchcraft and its TransformationsI is quite a Itour de forceI, full of fascinating insights,... it represents the best account currently available of Defoe's thought on such subjects; it gives a perceptive account of the imagery of witchcraft in popular prints in the eighteenth century./ Michael Hunter, Birkbeck College, London, Eighteenth Century Life, Vol 22, no. 2, May 1998.
`he does provide some valuable suggestions supported by highly selective but interesting texts ... Bostridge draws on a wide range of philosophers and political and religious thinkers.'
T. O. Beidelman, Anthropos
`a scholarly book to be published in May'
The Economist (UK) January 1997
`Ian Bostridge offers a challenging new perspective.'
Bernard Capp, American Historical Review
`learned, sound, unswervingly focused on the elite, and devoid of any violently original ideas likely to upset his mentors ... The queasy relationship between words and witches awaits further invesigation, but Bostridge has made an interesting beginning.'
Dione Purkiss, Journal of the History of the Behavioual Sciences
`this is clearly a very significant work, characterized throughout by the deployment of a keen historical imagination allied to a scrupulous regard for evidence ... Perhaps the greatest contribution of this book, however, is the intellectual history approach to English witchcraft ...'
J.A. Sharpe, University of York, English Historical Review, June 1999
`Bostridge challenges the traditional argument that belief in witchcraft among educated elites was waning in the second half of the seventeenth century. Bostridge leaves no doubt that among the educated, withcraft was taken seriously long after the restoration. A diachronic analysis of witchcraft beliefs, emphasizing the time when they lost their intellectual respectability.'
Brian Levack, Albion