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Witchcraft, 1550-1750

5. The Decline of Witch Trials

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In this module, we explore the decline of witchcraft as a crime and a belief. Even throughout periods of successive witch trials, scepticism was always present. After the chaos of the English Civil War subsides and the impacts of the Enlightenment are felt, this scepticism begins to become the dominant belief. By the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the crime of witchcraft has been eroded so much that tried cases always result in acquittals.


In this course, Professor Malcolm Gaskill (University of East Anglia) explores the history of witchcraft in early modern England. In the first module we explore what we mean by witchcraft and how this changed over the centuries. We then turn to look at the rise of witch trials in England from the middle of the 16th century. We then take a closer look at how the law developed in England around the issue of witchcraft. After this, we turn to look at the East Anglian Witch-Hunt of the 1640s. Finally we will consider how and why witchcraft fades away from English life in the late 17th and 18th centuries.


Malcolm Gaskill in Emeritus Professor of History at the University of East Anglia. His research interests are in British social and cultural history from 1500–1800, particularly the history of witch-beliefs and witchcraft prosecutions. He has written a number of books including Witchfinders: a Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy and The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World.

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APA style

Gaskill, M. (2021, December 01). Witchcraft, 1550-1750 - The Decline of Witch Trials [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Gaskill, Malcolm. "Witchcraft, 1550-1750 – The Decline of Witch Trials." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 01 Dec 2021,

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