Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy

Author(s): Malcolm Gaskill

Non Fiction

By the spring of 1645, civil war had exacted a terrible toll upon England. Disease was rife, apocalyptic omens appeared in the skies, and idolators detected in every shire. In a remote corner of Essex, two obscure gentlemen began interrogating women suspected of witchcraft, triggering the most brutal witch-hunt in English history. Witchfinders is a spellbinding study of how Matthew Hopkins, 'the Witchfinder General', and John Stearne extended their campaign across East Anglia, driven by godly zeal. Exploiting the anxiety and lawlessness of the times, and cheered on by ordinary folk, they extracted confessions of satanic pacts resulting in scores of executions.

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'Very highly recommended' - The Cauldron

Gaskill has become an expert on the Great British witch-hunt ... a completely readable non-fiction book on a gripping subject.' - Suffolk Journal, Norfolk Journal, The Essex Magazine

'It is a riveting subject, engagingly told, and worth a read.' - Catholic Herald

'Gives the ordinary reader a visceral sense of mid-seventeenth-century England ... satisfyingly complex' - Selina O'Grady, Literary Review

'The incessant peculiarity of the accusations could easily make the stories told in this book seem quaint rather than horrific. But Gaskill avoids this trap by describing each case in a vivid manner, making one aware at all times of the human tragedy. His description of a hanging, for instance could leave no reader unmoved' - Craig Brown, Book of the Week, Mail on Sunday

'The book is a timely warning for those who think that witch trials are a matter of history.' - The Times

'He's a very lucid and human writer, very good at setting the social context, helping you understand how the phenomenon of witchfinders came out of the dislocation of the civil war.' - Independent on Sunday

'Gaskill tells the story of the witch-hunt in full and accurate detail, for the first time, and with uncommon skill ... His book is both a solid contribution to knowledge and a splendid example of history as gripping literature' - Ronald Hutton, Independent

'Malcolm Gaskill patiently untangles the history of East Anglian witchcraft' - Guardian

'A brilliant new study ... In the vivid three-dimensionality of its dramatis personae, the eloquence of its writing, and the richness of its evocations of vanished worlds of landscape and belief ... Gaskill displays a masterly wizardry all his own' - John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph

'A splendid example of history as gripping literature.' - Independent 

'A sophisticated examination of East Anglia's mania in the 1640s' - Rosemary Goring - Glasgow Herald

'A fascinating history of the infamous witch-hunts and their main protagonist, Mathew Hopkins. This book is easily labelled as essential for anyone with an interest in the macabre! less obviously, it's also a good expose (and timely reminder) of how large-scale tragedies can occur once the right mix of circumstances are present' - Irish Times 

Malcolm Gaskill was born in Suffolk but grew up in Kent. He attended Cambridge University where he read History. He completed a PhD on early modern England, then taught at Keele, Belfast and APU, before becoming Director of Studies in History at Churchill College, Cambridge, in 1999.

General Fields

  • : 9780719561214
  • : murray
  • : murray
  • : April 2006
  • : 196mm X 132mm X 25mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Malcolm Gaskill
  • : Paperback
  • : 133.43092242
  • : 384
  • : integrated illustrations throughout