AP European History
5 November 2013
The Causes of Witch Persecution in Early Modern Europe
The witch trials and persecution of early modern Europe can be traced to a few main causes. External environmental factors such as Protestantism versus Catholicism and the recent Black Death served to further the tension in these societies by reminding them of the fact that ultimately many things are out of their control, supporting their need for an unchanging and certain religion. Chaos and disorder witnessed during this time period also contributed to a resurgence of patriarchy in the form of the witch hunts, where mostly women were persecuted. The few men persecuted were scientists further challenging the people’s crumbling world view. As a result of confusion and the loss of a stable world view many Europeans also resorted to using various women that were perceived as defying patriarchal norms or being an economic burden as scapegoats. A previously popular book which later became infamous, “Malleus Mallificarum,” serves as a prime example of this phenomenon. All in all, social and economic tensions reached their climax in allowing the mass abuses that are known as the witch trials of early modern Europe. Two key events took place that led up to the eventual establishment of witch hunts in early modern Europe—the Black Death pandemic and the religious struggle between Protestants and Catholics. Both of these movements triggered lasting effects on Europeans’ world views, generating their awareness of the fact that they needed some form of control, support, and strength in such a rapidly changing era. One of the outcomes this realization was the infamous prosecution and persecution of so-called witches. This terrible injustice unfortunately continued to be in practice until the 18th century. Much before that, however, the plague spread throughout all of Europe in a vicious, lethal epidemic, decreasing population while increasing paranoia and...
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