Extension History Proposal

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Year 12 Extension History Proposal
“Why Witches?”
By Carl Guevarra


The image of a 'witch' burning at the stake, such as the well-known St. Joan of Arc, is one recognised in almost any country of the world, and which, like the Holocaust, calls for explanation, in this case, the validation of the theory that the Great European Witch Hunts, of the 14th to 17th century, were all a case of 'gendercide'.

Gendercide is the term used to refer to forms of systematic killing of members of a specific sex, males or females, and the controversy around this concept, questions whether or not the witch “hunts were sex specific”, specifically aiming at the victimised females of the European witch trials. This theory is supported by historian, Christina Larner in, “Identification: Enemies of God: The Witch Hunt in Scotland”. Also supporting this argument is historian, Jenny Gibbons, who in “Recent developments in the study of the Great European Witch Hunts”, points out that “approximately 75-80% of the accused were women”. From the middle of the 1970's, historians began to base their theories on thorough, systematic studies of events surrounding the witch trials in a specific area, and put an end to the reliance on witch-hunting propaganda. Among these historians, were also those who opposed to the theory, pointing out that men were equally treated to women. A prime example is Steven Katz, who claims the arguments of historians who claim the witch hunts to be gendercide, were false, stating that “99.9% of all women at the time were not harmed...” in his book “The Holocaust in Historical Context”.

Preliminary Research.

At the beginning of the course, I initially aimed at working around a historical figure in art, Francisco de Goya. In extension classes on Thursday afternoons, much research was done, seeking information on not only Goya, but his conceptual framework; meaning everything involved between the artist, his artwork, his world, and his audience. However, with the abundant information found, only scarce amounts were particularly relevant to the specific topic upon which I wished to do the major project, specifically surrounding the historical validity of his paintings of the civil wars which occurred in Spain. With this issue of a lack of relevant information, as well as a loss of interest, I decided to change the subject of my project, to one which not only interested me more, but one which would have more historical, credible information, with a variety of historians which had differing perspectives on the theory that the Great European Witch Hunts were a case of 'gendercide'.

As a result, I found interest in this controversial subject, and I propose to investigate this topic in great depth, consequently breaking through the 'witch-hunting propaganda'. Propaganda including the stereotypical appearance of a witch, having a pointed hat, a large nose with warts, flying on a broom, as well as the ridiculous methods of witch trials, such as determining if they were a witch, by throwing them off a cliff and anticipating to see if they would fly. Historians discovered more depth in this topic, which is what I intend to research.

However, in order for me to become so interested in this subject, I had to do some preliminary research. After being inspired by a movie, specifically “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc” (1999) directed by Luc Besson, I began researching using the internet, entering the words like the following into Google: European witch-hunts, the Great Hunt, Witch trials of Europe, and Reason for witch trials. As a result of this research, I discovered a number of websites, which contained credible information in relation to my topic, specifically relating to the debate surrounding the European witch hunts, specifically questioning whether the events were a case of gendercide. For example, http://www.gendercide.org/case_witchhunts.html, is a website, created by Adam Jones, a historian...
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