A global history of witch trials across Europe, Africa, and the Americas, told through thirteen distinct trials that illuminate the pattern of demonization and conspiratorial thinking that has profoundly shaped human history.
Gibson’s book is a work of restitution and historical reparation, an attempt to give voice to those who have been silenced over the centuries. This is particularly sensitively done in the case of the Native American Tatabe (whom many readers will know as Tituba) during the 1692 Salem witch panic ... Gibson also shows the slipperiness between the persecutor and the persecuted, and how one could shapeshift into the other ... The book is the product of meticulous research, drawing on archival, printed and online sources, and a vast secondary literature, as well as more than thirty years of working on the history of witchcraft...Gibson is careful never to overstate the evidence, but evokes past lives as well as geographical and emotional landscapes with absolute clarity ... And, as Marion Gibson shows, the powerful metaphor of the witch, in all her multifaceted guises, is likely to endure.
The experiences of the accused women (and a few accused men) are foregrounded, through novelistic descriptions of their lives before and after their persecution ... If Gibson is perhaps at times fitting witches to her own vision, she is not alone in that ... Seeing witches through the Michelets’ lens is comforting, even moving, but it also feels not only incorrect but wrong. There are ways of valuing these accused witches without asserting that they were heroes and rebels who embodied our beliefs.
[A] thought-provoking and timely history of witchcraft ... In the past week Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have declared themselves victims of witch-hunts. This searing history exposes the grotesqueness of their claims. After 700 years of mutating theories and laws, it is not always possible to spot a witch.