Season 2 – Episode 8

Reformation Devils: James VI & I and the North Berwick Witch Trials

Lizzy Stebbins and Dr. Kyle Robinson

Elizabeth’s research focuses on King James VI & V’s experience with witch hunting in Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries and the Early Modern European witch trials and asks the question, “How did King James VI’s elevated political position and strong beliefs concerning the witch phenomenon influence 16th and 17th-century societal, religious, and political life during the Scottish and English witch trials?” She closely examines Dæmonology, written by King James during this time period, and several other supporting sources. 

Passe the Elder, Crispijn de. 1601. King James I of England and vi of ScotlandLine engraving. London. National Portrait Gallery.


Primary Sources 

George Fraser Black, and New. A Calendar of Cases of Witchcraft in Scotland, 1510-1727. (Reprinted from the Bulletin of the New York Public Library.). New York, 1938.

Goodare, Julian. The Scottish Witch-Hunt in Context. Manchester University Press, 2002.

King, James, Donald Tyson, and James Carmichael. The Demonology of King James I. Woodbury, Minn.: Llewellyn, 2011.

Slaughter, Lashonda. “King James and the Intellectual Influences of the Witchcraft Phenomenon in England and Scotland.” Dissertation, 2020.

Published by Hear the Voice and Prayer

How can we study belief? What are the longer term implications of religious change in society? These connected questions form the core of our course and our investigation of Early Modern Europe (c. 1450-1789). Indeed, the meaning of belief was the central issue of contention in Europe from the dawn of the Renaissance until the twilight of the eighteenth century and its Revolutions. The shattering of the Christian consensus and the rise of the empirical frame was a pathway cleared with the twin swords of Humanism’s cry of ad fontes and Luther’s injunction of sola fide. The route uncovered was a journey to the “Modern” in all its beauty and ugliness. Yet, stones lay upon this trail, rocky reminders whose pain and obstacle convey the irony that Europe’s greatest religious revolution resulted in the ultimate secularization of the continent and of the West in general. Still, secularization, caught as it is in a dialectic with Christianity, is a form of belief, and belief remains central. The effort to experience, define, and understand both acceptable and unacceptable beliefs will be our compass to map Europe’s Early Modern world, the world of unfolding Reformations. This course will consist of primary and secondary readings, lecture, classroom discussion, as well as multiple student writing assignments culminating in a final research based student podcast.

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