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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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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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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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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