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Synopsis

Investigating the continuing meaning of witchcraft and demonology in England in its period of supposed decline, Jonathan Barry takes six cases from south-western England between 1640 and 1789, and explores them in great depth to reveal the multiple and contested meanings of what occurred and how it was explained. Eschewing simple polarities of 'belief' or 'scepticism' about witches and the Devil, his studies here examine how our surviving evidence was created (and how carefully it must therefore be used) and transmitted down to our time. Barry's introduction and conclusion then bring out the wider implications, not only for the history of witchcraft and demonology, but for our understanding of the factors underlying cultural and intellectual change in England between the English and French revolutions, a time when political and religious pluralism and the impact of enlightenment ideas coexisted with deep-rooted commitment to a providentialist ideal of a united Protestant society, built on Biblical and legal traditions.

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