The trial of the Bideford witches in 1682 although well-known has been little studied. Previous accounts have concentrated on reproducing the original sources mostly for their antiquarian and sensational value, and no attempt made to analyse and understand the events in their wider social and historical context. The Bideford trial merits closer examination in several respects. Firstly, it came at the very end of the witch-hunting craze of 1550 to 1660. There were very few executions for witchcraft in England after the Restoration, and the Bideford witches were almost the last to be executed in England. By that time most witchcraft trials ended in acquittals; the circumstances in which such a retrogressive act could have taken place deserve careful study. Secondly, the trial was exceptional in that it concerned events in an urban, even cosmopolitan, environment. Most studies of seventeenth-century witchcraft concentrate on village life; how did it occur in a thriving, bustling provincial town with a cultured, educated and wealthy elite? A third problem which needs to be studied is the apparent acquiescence of the victims in their fate. They appear to have made little or no attempt to deny the charges made against them either before or during their trial. Finally, the trial gives us an extraordinary, exceptional and valuable insight into the lives and mentality of ordinary people at the close of the seventeenth century. We hear the very words they spoke, we can recapture the excitement of those distant events in a way no other source could provide.
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Book Description Edward Gaskell Publishers, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: Used; Good. Bookseller Inventory # 1638100