Three More Wishes?

Everyone knows the rules of the genie in the bottle are that you can’t wish for more wishes or to make a funding body love you. (You have to impress them with a parade of elephants and a magic carpet ride.) But a recent announcement from the British Academy made me think about my Three […]

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Three Wishes

There’s no way round the fact that research grant funding is a machine that requires a huge amount of labour from reviewers, applicants, referees, and committees… and results in a lot of disappointment for a lot of people. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that rejections are not indictments of the quality of […]

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On Process

Giving a recent talk, I wanted to convey where the paper fitted into my broader project on witchcraft in France from 1790-1940. So I gave a taster of the big ideas, mentioned some surprising findings, did a slideshow with some compelling pictures from the wider research… and a screenshot of a spreadsheet. It’s the Big […]

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Of Rabbits, Hats, and Holes

There is a compulsion that anyone who has ever done historical research has felt. A need to chase down the loose ends, to follow the documentary trail as far as it will go. I like research snacking – using spare time or setting aside short periods to look at new materials every day, even when […]

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Writing Models

Models are a productive way into thinking about the writing of history. When I was first studying history, I rushed through as much reading as I could, reasoning – not without cause – that if I could just cram as many different ideas through my eyes, the topics would start to make sense. One thing […]

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Good Victims

In January 1816, Mathurin Viel was despairing of his health.* He had seen several doctors, but nothing had worked to cure his ‘nerves’. It was at this point that he was introduced to a man known as ‘Lacroix’, whose real name was René Bodin. Lacroix told him his illness ‘came from a spell that had […]

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nonsense matters

Julie Langois, femme Vigneux told investigators in 1846 that she had called on the healing services of Jerôme Nicolas Lenfant to treat the ringworm her two children were suffering from. Lenfant’s cure included putting boiled onions on the children’s heads, rubbing them with butter, and blowing in their ears. Although this method had nothing in […]

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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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