Posts Tagged ‘Matthew Hopkins’

Physical torture was inadmissible as evidence in early modern English court except under exceptional circumstances. Witchcraft, however, was not considered “exceptional” in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The sorts of crimes people thought witches did were linked to the everyday misfortunes of agricultural life: causing illness, killing cattle, spoiling butter, ruining beer. While central judicial authority lapsed during the English Civil War, for the simple reason that assize judges couldn’t get to local courts, Justices of the Peace still didn’t accept confessions gained from straight physical torture, a key difference from judicial practices in the Holy Empire, France, Northern Italy and Switzerland, hearts of the so-called “witch-craze.”


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