A friend once told me that the first morning after they had moved to a new neighbourhood, their dog found half a hotdog lying on the lawn of a neighbour’s house. Many years later, the dog was still in the habit, every morning, of making the detour from their walking route to check for hotdogs. Just in case.

I think, deep down, all historians are that dog.

The last post I wrote was about how I was floundering in the archives… but at least I got a bit of sausage.

This week has been worse, and in a way that fits a long-term pattern: every type of judicial research I have tried has worked out the same way. The very first cour d’assises case I researched two years ago remains to this day the best documented case I have ever found. In a similar way, the juges de paix judgements I was so pleased to come across last week – two mentions of witchcraft in one small box of documents – now seem like a complete freak.

And like the dog with his sausage, I’ve just spent the whole day leafing through local criminal justice records and finding nothing. Actually nothing. Not a single peep about the witchcraft I’m looking for. A case of fraudulent medicine got my hopes up, but the man was promising to cure people with a potion, and never mentioned any magic powers.

The closest I came to a breakthrough among the hundreds of cases of dogs without collars, and animals grazing where they shouldn’t – was a story of a man accused of defecating in his neighbour’s shed.

And I didn’t even get a photo.

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