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Crash Course European History, Witchcraft: Crash Course European History #10 (2)

Witchcraft: Crash Course European History #10 (2)

The hangman then applied torture at the direction of a council of examiners.

Knowing the accused person's body intimately, he came to know it better by observing and

noting the kinds of torture and the victim's reaction to each type.

Then as now, many tortured people would make false confessions, which in turn often led

to execution.

The widespread torture and execution are horrifying, and they speak to how profoundly afraid people

were of the devil and his influence.

In 1587, the story of Faust, a scholar who sells his soul to the devil, was first published.

And its themes were relevant to popular and high culture.

Because if a /scholar/ would sell his soul to the devil, who could be immune?

It was common knowledge that the devil was a trickster and a supreme illusionist, cloaked

in all kinds of magic that was difficult to detect or to separate from the normal, good

magic of the unseen world.

So in towns and cities, councils examined suspects often over a period of years, with

interrogations interspersed with torture and deliberations.

They would examine a suspect's words, the stories she told, and the contradictions within

those stories.

They tried to discern who was in league with the devil and who was simply mentally disturbed

or a helpful healer or, you know, a victim of torture.

And these councils of notable men always had the last word, leading some historians to

believe that in times of difficulty and disorder, like the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,

men asserted control.

Other historians point to the concentrated focus on women and conclude that the accused

were the most vulnerable and often the most disrespected in society.

Moreover, women such as lying-in-nurses dealt with the most intimate matters of human existence,

especially new life, which was then fraught with danger--around half of all infants born

died before their fifth birthday, many in the first few days of life, and childbirth

was among the greatest threats to women's lives.

Finally, others point out that women were the main victims because religious scripture

referred to the female body as the most impure and most vulnerable to evil.

Being seen as the most unclean, they were also seen as the most like the devil--tricksters

and agents of disorder.

The Witches' Hammer makes this comparison explicit many, many times.

But no matter what conclusions you draw, it's important to understand that sexism isn't

just, like, bad in the abstract.

It is a system of power that oppresses people, and in these cases, many times kills them.

Between 1700 and 1750, the persecution of witches diminished, as the tide started to

turn against the practice.

French courts ordered the arrest of witch-hunters and the release of suspected witches.

In 1682, a French royal decree treated witchcraft as a fraud.

Perhaps the state had taken seriously Michel de Montaigne's pronouncement from a century

earlier—almost unique at the time, by the way: “it is taking one's conjectures rather

seriously to roast someone alive for them.”

By 1700, people had a more positive view of the divine and had relaxed their view that

the Devil's hand was at work in everyday life or in natural disasters.

Although some religious authorities might still see misfortune as the work of the Devil,

others had a better understanding that there were scientific laws behind the operations

of nature.

More than that, the worst of the multifaceted religious and political turmoil was over and

questions of political order seemed less menacing.

We'll discuss how these new understandings came about in the next few episodes.

Thanks for watching.

I'll see you then.



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Witchcraft: Crash Course European History #10 (2)

The hangman then applied torture at the direction of a council of examiners.

Knowing the accused person's body intimately, he came to know it better by observing and

noting the kinds of torture and the victim's reaction to each type.

Then as now, many tortured people would make false confessions, which in turn often led

to execution.

The widespread torture and execution are horrifying, and they speak to how profoundly afraid people

were of the devil and his influence.

In 1587, the story of Faust, a scholar who sells his soul to the devil, was first published.

And its themes were relevant to popular and high culture.

Because if a /scholar/ would sell his soul to the devil, who could be immune?

It was common knowledge that the devil was a trickster and a supreme illusionist, cloaked

in all kinds of magic that was difficult to detect or to separate from the normal, good

magic of the unseen world.

So in towns and cities, councils examined suspects often over a period of years, with

interrogations interspersed with torture and deliberations.

They would examine a suspect's words, the stories she told, and the contradictions within

those stories.

They tried to discern who was in league with the devil and who was simply mentally disturbed

or a helpful healer or, you know, a victim of torture.

And these councils of notable men always had the last word, leading some historians to

believe that in times of difficulty and disorder, like the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,

men asserted control.

Other historians point to the concentrated focus on women and conclude that the accused

were the most vulnerable and often the most disrespected in society.

Moreover, women such as lying-in-nurses dealt with the most intimate matters of human existence,

especially new life, which was then fraught with danger--around half of all infants born

died before their fifth birthday, many in the first few days of life, and childbirth

was among the greatest threats to women's lives.

Finally, others point out that women were the main victims because religious scripture

referred to the female body as the most impure and most vulnerable to evil.

Being seen as the most unclean, they were also seen as the most like the devil--tricksters

and agents of disorder.

The Witches' Hammer makes this comparison explicit many, many times.

But no matter what conclusions you draw, it's important to understand that sexism isn't

just, like, bad in the abstract.

It is a system of power that oppresses people, and in these cases, many times kills them.

Between 1700 and 1750, the persecution of witches diminished, as the tide started to

turn against the practice.

French courts ordered the arrest of witch-hunters and the release of suspected witches.

In 1682, a French royal decree treated witchcraft as a fraud.

Perhaps the state had taken seriously Michel de Montaigne's pronouncement from a century

earlier—almost unique at the time, by the way: “it is taking one's conjectures rather

seriously to roast someone alive for them.”

By 1700, people had a more positive view of the divine and had relaxed their view that

the Devil's hand was at work in everyday life or in natural disasters.

Although some religious authorities might still see misfortune as the work of the Devil,

others had a better understanding that there were scientific laws behind the operations

of nature.

More than that, the worst of the multifaceted religious and political turmoil was over and

questions of political order seemed less menacing.

We'll discuss how these new understandings came about in the next few episodes.

Thanks for watching.

I'll see you then.

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