Noting Witchcraft

It’s impossible – I think – to work on modern European witchcraft without engaging with the challenges Jeanne Favret-Saada laid down in a series of publications from the 1970s onwards. Favret-Saada’s drew on her fieldwork in western France in a series of articles and three books. I won’t do her ideas the disservice of trying […]

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Cursed Feelings

I have been thinking about what it feels like to feel cursed. It’s so easy when writing about cases of witchcraft to emphasize the external phenomena of bewitchment: butter that won’t churn, animals that don’t thrive, tools that can’t be found. It’s a lot harder to give a picture of what this felt like to […]

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Being late to being early

‘Start writing sooner than you think!’ is one of those pieces of advice that are easier to give than to take. Like advice to write ‘little and often’, everyone knows that it is universally applicable, except in this very specific situation in which I find myself, where it would just be so much better to […]

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The Logic of Last

When was the last ‘witch’ executed in Europe? I have come to think that this question itself is unhelpful. Unhelpful in that – as specialists have long known – it corresponds very poorly to the shifting legal status of witchcraft between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. ‘Witches’ were still being prosecuted for witchcraft in Russia […]

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Fool’s Cunning

In 1908, a regional newspaper carried a story about the criminal prosecution of a Parisian magician who had sold clients, among other things, a ‘fatal magnetic water’. One client wrote to the police: He sold me a bottle of ‘Fatal Water’ for fourteen francs so that I could kill the Emperor of Russia, against whom […]

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The Real Disruptors

This is a post for students. Many of you will recently have learned that the UCU – the union representing university staff – has called strike action starting in just a couple of weeks, in December 2021. I know some of you already support and understand the union position (in fact, a survey from the […]

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No, That is Not a Witch Hunt

The votes are in, and I am delighted to inform you: no, that is not a witch hunt! Great news! This is the correct response to all discussion of ‘modern witch hunts’. To every example from your life and from public debate that you want to point to. Well, every example except the actual witch […]

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Punching back

Academic history writing is not emotion-less. Academics often consciously express – or evoke – anger, sadness, regret, or hope in their writing. But when it comes to tone, how many academics write humourously? My thoughts have been drawn back to this after I found the following image and reposted it on Twitter. Why do I […]

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Fragments of a sentence

A sentence fragment is a phrase wearing the clothing of a sentence. It comes with the correct capital letter at the start, and a full stop at the end. But it is not a sentence. Why? Because it does not have a subject (a noun or pronoun) and an active verb. Like this. That fragment […]

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