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Explaining the Hunts: Causes of the European Witch Craze

Explaining the Hunts: Causes of the European Witch Craze

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Published by hashir12
Identifies and analyzes at least three causes of the European witch hunts for AP European History in response to the document-based question (DBQ) at .
Identifies and analyzes at least three causes of the European witch hunts for AP European History in response to the document-based question (DBQ) at .

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Published by: hashir12 on Nov 03, 2010
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09/17/2013

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 Ali, 1
Hashir Ahmad AliFriday, November 05, 2010 Vazquez
Explaining the Hunts: Causes of the European Witch Craze* 
 The European witch craze took place in the Early Modern period in a time of social and politicaldynamism. This time period was marked by the Protestant and Catholic Reformations as well as the IndustrialRevolution and the large-scale consolidation of many national governments. With a fiercely volatile socialorder as the backdrop, over a hundred thousand Europeans were tried for witchcraft. The accused wereexiled, tormented, and burned by the dozens. Any historian that seeks to explain away every one of the witch hunts by a single reason is naïvely simplistic. Even associating economic greed to the witch hunts is slightly fallacious. Nevertheless, the witchcraze can generally be rightfully related to three major factors. Firstly, while religion was not the only motivation for punishing alleged witchcraft, religious conspiracy definitely played a role in defining witchcraft.However, while religious intent may have justified the witch hunts, these hunts were also influenced by socialcontrol as well as social functionalist benefits. Thirdly, the hunts were shaped by misogynistic and other socialprejudices to an irrefutable extent. At the time of the witch craze, Europe was in a state of religious instability. Regardless, the leaders of competing factions wielded immense socio-political power and were able to inherently generate and transmitthe beliefs conducive to the witch craze. For example, the masses may have otherwise pointed out that theDevil is capable of causing all the evil that is associated with witchcraft. However, as Martin Luther, who may be credited for single-handedly transforming Christianity, preached, while the Devil is not
unable to do thesethings by himself without sorcerers [ 
 ] he will not act without human help
(Document B3). Similarly, JohnCalvin taught his followers that Europe must
 wage war against an infinite number
of the Devil
s associates(Document B4). The contemporaneous religious leader of perhaps greatest importance, the Pope himself, had written in 1484 that many people
give themselves over to devils
and that, therefore, such people will bedealt with by 
correction, imprisonment, and punishment
(Document B2).
 
 Ali, 2
 These Christian ideas of hell, the Devil, and his associates were highly endemic. This is apparent inthe diary of a young Protestant boy who wrote about his terrible
fear of Hell and the devils
(DocumentB5). While Luther, Calvin, and the Pope may have had personal reasons for their biases, the boy andlaypeople like him were undoubtedly shaped by the ideas of witchcraft instilled by religious dogma. It only follows to propose that in such a society the average person could not help but feel compelled toacknowledge the existence of witches and to fear, hate, and even punish any sign of witchcraft. From as early on as 1563, men of learning had shown that
those illnesses, whose origins are attributed to [witchcraft],come from natural causes
(Document C2). However, science and logic was still hard pressed to achieve thesort of social clout that religion brandished. Almost in all cases, only religion was used to justify the Europeanhunts. In this hostile atmosphere, the
existence
of witchcraft could easily be advantaged for personal andillicit gain and in fact it was.Public opinion on witchcraft was easily manipulated for control and functionalist benefits. Not only did such exploitation help maintain the size and loyalty of Christian congregations, but it also aided therapidly fusing national governments. While it is tempting to link the witch craze to illnesses like syphilis, inreality, the witch hunts were not at all random and chaotic. They were largely organized by ruling elites andgovernment officials in a systematic way. As a Canon Linden in Germany asserted, the witch craze
 waspromoted by many in office [ 
 ] from court to court throughout the towns and villages of all the diocese,scurried special accusers
(Document A2). It is only commonsense to notice that the witch hunts were highly conducive to the creation of centralized authority, enlarged bureaucratic jurisdictions, and culturally unifiedpopulations. Additionally, witches functioned as scapegoats for the troubles of these indoctrinated people. This was well explained by Thomas Ady, a witness of the witch hunts in 1650, when he gave the example of refusing to provide refuge to an old man or woman sought it. Ady said that if, after such a thing,
my [Ady 
s]child, my wife, myself, my horse, my cow, my sheep, my sow, my hog, my dog, my cat, or somewhat
 suffered or was harmed in some way, then as a typical European, he would swear it was witchcraft
or elsehow should these things be
(Document A3).

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