Witchcraft, Madness, Society, and Religion in Early Modern Germany: A Ship of Fools, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Witchcraft, Madness, Society, and Religion in Early Modern Germany

A Ship of Fools, 1st Edition

By H.C. Erik Midelfort


368 pages

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Hardback: 9781409457336
pub: 2013-08-16
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H.C. Erik Midelfort has carved out a reputation for innovative work on early modern German history, with a particular focus on the social history of ideas and religion. This collection pulls together some of his best work on the related subjects of witchcraft, the history of madness and psychology, demonology, exorcism, and the social history of religious change in early modern Europe. Several of the pieces reprinted here constitute reviews of recent scholarly literature on their topics, while others offer sharp departures from conventional wisdom. A critique of Michel Foucault’s view of the history of madness proved both stimulating but irritating to Foucault’s most faithful readers, so it is reprinted here along with a short retrospective comment by the author. Another focus of this collection is the social history of the Holy Roman Empire, where towns, peasants, and noble families developed different perceptions of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations and of the options the religious revolutions of the sixteenth century offered. Finally, this collection also brings together articles which show how Freudian psychoanalysis and academic sociology have filtered and interpreted the history of early modern Germany.


'This collection is an effective means of making more accessible some fine work by an eminent historian.' Sixteenth Century Journal '… this collection highlights many of the recent trends and developments in the study of early modern German history, especially the social history of ideas. It demonstrates the role that H.C. Erik Midelfort has played in this historiographical discourse in the last forty years by bringing together a variety of his articles in one neat volume.' German History '… a generous body of work as well as an important one.' English Historical Review '… per la prima volta Midelfort ha saputo mettere fonti diverse in più stretto dialogo, fondendo e arricchendo diverse tradizioni storiografiche. Inoltre, grazie a una notevole capacità di analisi, ha potuto proporre conclusion originali che hanno messo in discussione alcune interpretazioni consolidate, come quella relativa al coinvolgimento di masse nei processi.' Bibliotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: history and the sense of surprise; Part I The Historiography of Witchcraft: Witchcraft, magic and the occult; Witchcraft. Part II Demons and Witchcraft: Were there really witches?; Catholic and Lutheran reactions to demonic possession in the late 17th century: two case histories; Witch craze? Beyond the legends of panic. Part III The German Reformation and German Religious History: Toward a social history of ideas in the German Reformation; Social history and the Biblical exegesis: community, family and witchcraft in 16th-century Germany; The Reformation and the early social sciences (Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Freud): toward a cultural epidemiology; The worst book in the world. Part IV German Nobles: Curious Georgics: the German nobility and their crisis of legitimacy in the late 16th century; The Reformation and the German nobility. Part V Historical Psychology and the Problem of Madness: Madness and civilization in early modern Europe: a reappraisal of Michel Foucault; Reading and believing. On the reappraisal of Michel Foucault; Madness and the millennium at Münster, 1534-1535; Charcot, Freud and the demons; Index.

About the Author

H.C. Erik Midelfort is Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia, USA.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at Michael.Greenwood@informa.com

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / History