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BLAWg In Bloom

The Indiana Law Library Blog

The Witching Hour

Halloween: a time of witches, brooms, cats, and trick-or-treating!  While you are happily gathering up your candy, spare a thought for the innocent (numbering many thousands) who were hunted, arrested, and persecuted for practicing witchcraft during Early Modern Europe (1480-1700). 

The current exhibit on display at the library entrance features a famous English witch trial (held in Bury St. Edmunds, 1662) which was to become influential and referenced in the renowned American Salem witch trials. The trial involved the prosecution of two Lowestoft women in the bewitching of several children. The children suffered fits, lameness, vomited nails and pins, and complained that the two defendants were witches. The major trial personages could have come straight out of a page of Who Was Who – Judge: Sir Matthew Hale (Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer and future Lord Chief Justice of England); Justice of the Peace: Sir Edmund Bacon; Serjeant-at-law: Sir John Kelyng (future Chief Justice of the King’s Bench); Expert witness: Sir Thomas Browne (author and physician).

While researching this trial, I became incredibly impressed by the wealth of primary and secondary sources held at Indiana University. The Lilly Library houses several fascinating treatises on witchcraft and have kindly lent their copy of the trial report for the exhibit. On a personal note, several generations of my family have lived in Lowestoft. So, if you would like to learn more about witchcraft bibliography and England, feel free to drop by the Circulation Office for a chat!

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