Witchcraft in Early Modern Scotland

BookWitchcraft in Early Modern Scotland

Witchcraft in Early Modern Scotland

James VI's Demonology and the North Berwick Witches

Exeter Studies in History


March 23rd, 2022

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This volume provides a valuable introduction to the key concepts of witchcraft and demonology through a detailed study of one of the best known and most notorious episodes of Scottish history, the North Berwick witch hunt, in which King James was involved as alleged victim, interrogator, judge and demonologist. It provides hitherto unpublished and inaccessible material from the legal documentation of the trials in a way that makes the material fully comprehensible, as well as full texts of the pamphlet News from Scotland and James' Demonology, all in a readable, modernised, scholarly form. Full introductory sections and supporting notes provide information about the contexts needed to understand the texts: court politics, social history and culture, religious changes, law and the workings of the court, and the history of witchcraft prosecutions in Scotland before 1590. The book also brings to bear on this material current scholarship on the history of European witchcraft.

Until his death in 1999, Gareth Roberts was senior lecturer in the School of English, University of Exeter, where he was Course Director of the MA in The History and Literature of Witchcraft. Lawrence Normand is principal lecturer in English at Middlesex University.

Witchcraft in Early Modern Scotland will be immensely useful for scholars of witchcraft, demonology, early modern women, as well as those who study Scottish political, religious, legal, and social history. The contextual information in Part One is clearly presented and accessible for scholars with only a cursory knowledge of early modern Scotland; and detailed annotations of the documents make them readily comprehensible for readers unfamiliar with Scots dialect. The book is a case-study that becomes cultural history ... Such rich and carefully read evidence of intimate interactions between members of elite and popular cultures makes an important contribution to our understanding of sixteenth-century social history.
Albion, Vol.34, Issue 2, Summer

This volume provides readers, especially students, with what is too often lacking in early modern history: a self-contained case study based on primary sources ... However, the authors have done more than provide the raw material of these trials as a case study. They preface each document with a useful introduction while avoiding the temptation to lead the reader in the interpretation of them. The documents also have footnotes relating to vocabulary and endnotes on textual matters arising from the originals. Both are extremely helpful ... While one might be tempted to conclude that the publication of a complete set of witch trials is accomplishment enough, this volume expands upon this by including a detailed set of introductory chapters. These set out, clearly and concisely, the context in which the trials were prosecuted ... This volume is to be commended for providing those interested not only in witchcraft but also witch-hunting with a single, self-contained case study rich in detail. Students, in particular, will find much food for thought in these original documents.
Scottish Economic and Social History, Vol. 21, Part 1

This book is, altogether, a remarkable achievement, combining the best standards of traditional textual scholarship with an imaginative approach to the subject. For as well as the texts gathered together and so splendidly edited, there is a lengthy introduction which places these texts, and the events which underlay them, in context ... This is a book which will be welcomed, and much used, by the specialist in witchcraft history, which will also be invaluable to teachers and students both of early modern witchcraft and of early modern Scottish history more generally, and which will also be read with profit by those with a more general interest in such matters.

A significant contribution to the history of witchcraft, the history of Scotland, the history of feminism and the history of ideas in general.
Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance, Vol. 63

This splendid edition of the documents represents substantial research and will be a welcome addition to the library of all interested in this topic.
Renaissance Quarterly, Spring

Every so often a very worthwhile book comes along. Such a book provides the reader with an opportunity to examine modern transcriptions of primary sources, accompanied by intelligent commentary, and a well-written scholarly overview of the topics in question. This is such a book. It is a pleasure to read […] This edition of Demonology and other attendant documents should be welcomed by students an scholars who are studying the history of witchcraft in the British Isles.
Jane P. Davidson, Sixteenth Century Journal XXXIII/3

One is reminded of Arturo Perez Riverte’s novel The Dumas Club (London: Harvill Press, 1996), in which an unscrupulous bibliophile attempts to collate, from minute variants in the illustrations (the vital ones drafted by Lucifer himself) in the only three surviving copies of a legendary demonological treatise, an incantation to raise the Devil himself. Normand and Roberts’ project is a modest one compared to this, but undoubtedly a significant contribution to our understanding of Scottish and European witch belief.
Jonathan Murray, Scottish Studies Review, vol. 4, no. 1

It is excellent on the edited texts and will prove a very welcome addition for both academics and students to what has been, to date, a rather meagre selection of books on witchcraft in Scotland.
Joyce Miller, Edinburgh Review III


Author Information

Lawrence Normand is principal lecturer in English at Middlesex University. Until his death in 1999, Gareth Roberts was senior lecturer in the School of English, University of Exeter, where he was Course Director of the MA in The History and Literature of Witchcraft.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of the Texts8
List of Illustrations10
Introduction History, Witchcraft, Texts15
Discussion of the Texts and Editorial Conventions21
Part 1 Context41
Chapter 1 The Court and Politics43
Chapter 2 Social Contexts and Cultural Formations67
Chapter 3 The Kirk85
Chapter 4 Scottish Witchcraft Before the North Berwick Witch Hunt92
Chapter 5 The Legal Process101
Chapter 6 The Aftermath119
Part 2 Texts139
Chapter 7 Witch Hunting: Examinations, Confessions and Depositions141
Chapter 8 Records of the Witchcraft Trials: Dittays217
Chapter 9 Witch Hunt Propaganda: News from Scotland304
Chapter 10 Theorising the Witch Hunt: James VI's Demonology341