Magic: The Basics: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Magic: The Basics

1st Edition

By Michael D. Bailey


184 pages

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Paperback: 9781138809611
pub: 2017-08-01
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Magic: The Basics is a concise and engaging introduction to magic in world history and contemporary societies. Presenting magic as a global phenomenon which has manifested in all human cultures, this book takes a thematic approach which explores the historical, social, and cultural aspects of magic.

Key features include:

  • attempts to define magic either in universal or more particular terms, and to contrast it with other broad and potentially fluid categories such as religion and science;
  • an examination of different forms of magical practice and the purposes for which magic has been used;
  • debates about magic’s effectiveness, its reality, and its morality;
  • an exploration of magic’s association with certain social factors, such as gender, ethnicity and education, among others.

Offering a global perspective of magic from antiquity through to the modern era and including a glossary of key terms, suggestions for further reading and case studies throughout, Magic: The Basics is essential reading for anyone seeking to learn more about the academic study of magic.


"This book offers a clear and very readable guide to the notorious complexities of defining and studying magic, by showing that the very essence of magic, both historically and in the present, lies in its ambiguous and contested character. It is written with lightness and wit, but addresses serious and difficult issues without ever moralising or simplifying."

Jonathan Barry, University of Exeter, UK

"Michael Bailey has written an extremely successful introduction to an elusive and enduring phenomenon. He is an informed and engaging guide and this book will be of great value to those new to the academic study of magic as well as those well established in the field."

Justin Meggitt, University of Cambridge, UK

"…Bailey has succeeded in creating a fairly easy and accessible read that won’t scare off undergraduates—a rarity when it comes to recent works on “magic.” For both its breadth and accessibility, it is certainly a book that will be worth placing on student reading lists."

Ethan Doyle White, University College London, UK

Table of Contents


Introduction: A Magical World

Chapter 1: The Meanings of Magic

Chapter 2: Magical Acts

Chapter 3: Magic Contested and Condemned

Chapter 4: Magical Identities

Chapter 5: The Reality of Magic

Chapter 6: Magic in the Modern World


Further Reading

About the Author

Michael D. Bailey is Professor of History at Iowa State University. He is founding co-editor of the journal Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft and has published extensively on the history of witchcraft and superstition in medieval Europe.

About the Series

The Basics

The Basics is a highly successful series of accessible guidebooks which provide an overview of the fundamental principles of a subject area in a jargon-free and undaunting format.

Intended for students approaching a subject for the first time, the books both introduce the essentials of a subject and provide an ideal springboard for further study. With over 50 titles spanning subjects from Artificial Intelligence to Women’s Studies, The Basics are an ideal starting point for students seeking to understand a subject area.

Each text comes with recommendations for further study and gradually introduces the complexities and nuances within a subject.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General