The Witch-Hunts of the 16th Century in Pre-Modern Europe

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The Witch-Hunts of the 16th century in pre-modern Europe, was a very gruesome time in human history. Countless people were executed as they were accused of being “witches”, primarily women. Through the decades, countless historians have been puzzled trying to find an explanation and answer the following question, were the Witch-Hunts in pre-modern Europe Misogynistic? Anne Llewellyn Barstow suggests in her paper “On Studying Witchcraft as Women’s History”, that during this time women were indeed accused and executed based off misogynistic views. She points out how women were singled out and targeted by a male dominant population based on their vulnerability and status. On the other hand historian Robin Briggs argues in his report, “Women as Victims? Witches, Judges and the Community”, that this was not the case. He believed that gender was not a major factor at all in determining who was accused and convicted of witchcraft. Instead he believed that there was no concept of gender at that time and an equal number of men were also accused.

Briggs states that a lot of the “evidence” that is used by many modern historians to prove that the Witch-Hunts in pre-modern Europe were Misogynistic, are in fact exaggerations. Many claim that the sex ratio was 100% and that near 9 million women were killed; when in fact written records indicate that about 50,000 would be more accurate. The most disturbing part of these claims according to Briggs is that they don’t really have solid explanations for them. For example, Carol Karlsen claimed that men were threatened by women who started tip own property yet provided no control group of vivid explanation for this assumption. Therefore Briggs presents his three suggestions as to why historians tend to associate the witch hunts as directly linked to women. One of these reasons is of course economy. At the time with all the economic changes that were occurring, women began to be gradually dependent more and more on men. The fact...
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