The Witch

A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present

Why have societies all across the world feared witchcraft? This book delves deeply into its context, beliefs, and origins in Europe’s history

The witch came to prominence—and often a painful death—in early modern Europe, yet her origins are much more geographically diverse and historically deep. In this landmark book, Ronald Hutton traces witchcraft from the ancient world to the early-modern stake.

This book sets the notorious European witch trials in the widest and deepest possible perspective and traces the major historiographical developments of witchcraft. Hutton, a renowned expert on ancient, medieval, and modern paganism and witchcraft beliefs, combines Anglo-American and continental scholarly approaches to examine attitudes on witchcraft and the treatment of suspected witches across the world, including in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Australia, and North and South America, and from ancient pagan times to current interpretations. His fresh anthropological and ethnographic approach focuses on cultural inheritance and change while considering shamanism, folk religion, the range of witch trials, and how the fear of witchcraft might be eradicated.



Ronald Hutton provides a scholarly work that reads more like an easy paced journey through one of History’s most fascinating subjects. Maybe I just found the subject fascinating and enjoyed learning so much more than I had ever been taught in school. Hutton’s passion for research pours through so it’s easy to imagine he would be the favorite professor to take a class in this from on campus.

You get to experience the heightened fear during early Europe’s fascination with women’s behavior and witch trials that precede the Salem Days. What I really loved was that this was so much more than just another history book as he actually took the time to examine the historical concepts through human behavior, culture and psychology of the people and times.

I appreciated the lengths he went to examine the idea of witches as they relate to Pagan and other similar beliefs and practices particularly since not every pagan system contains ‘witches’ despite what the public believes.

What he has provided is not just another book but THE book that should be on the must read list for anyone interested in the history and truth of how witches came to be and their intersections throughout history across multiple continents.

Unlike some history books Hutton provides plenty of resources to support his views and evidence so you can walk away feeling assured you’re being treated to a fuller context of the truth rather than a biased viewpoint.

Thank you to Netgalley and Yale University Press for allowing me to review this!

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*synopsis and image from Netgalley

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