‘They seem to have all died out’: witches and witchcraft in Lark Rise to Candleford and the English countryside, c.1830–1930. Thomas Waters
Flora Thompson’s account of the English countryside during the 1880s–1890s – Lark Rise to Candleford – continues to be an important source for rural history. In that text the protagonist’s mother says that witches had ‘all died out’, and none had been known in her generation. The informants of late Victorian folklorists sometimes made similar remarks. Historians have taken such statements about witchcraft being a thing of the past at face value, inferring from them that plebeian concern about its influence was disappearing during the final decades of the nineteenth century. This article uses evidence from the English south midlands, and insights provided by anthropological studies of sorcery, to suggest an alternative interpretation. Rather than being a sincere statement of belief, assertions that witches had ‘all died out’ were part of a strategy to avoid speaking about a dreaded subject. Such pains were taken because it was believed that talking about witchcraft was a dangerous activity that would lead to the bewitchment of anyone with a loose tongue.
And check out our other latest articles on Early View:
Bishops and deans: London and the province of Canterbury in the twelfth century.D. P. Johnson
Chivalry, British sovereignty and dynastic politics: undercurrents of antagonism in Tudor-Stewart relations, c.1490−c.1513. Katie Stevenson
Pressing the French and defending the Palmerstonian line: Lord William Hervey and The Times, 1846–8. Laurence Guymer
Remembering usurpation: the common lawyers, Reformation narratives and the prerogative, 1578–1616. David Chan Smith
The Annual Pollard Prize 2013 (sponsored by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.)
The Pollard Prize is awarded annually for the best paper presented at an Institute of Historical Research seminar by a postgraduate student or by a researcher within one year of completing the PhD.
Applicants are required to have delivered a paper at an IHR seminar during the academic year in which the award is made. Submissions should be supported by a reference from a convenor of the appropriate seminar.
First prize is fast track publication in the prestigious IHR journal, Historical Research, and £200 of Blackwell books.
Runner up prizes include publication in Historical Research, and a selection of Blackwell books. A variable number of runner up prizes will be awarded, depending on the quality of applications in any given year.
Enquiries and submissions should be directed to the Executive Editor, Historical Research (Jane.Winters@sas.ac.uk).
The August 2012 issue of Historical Research is now available. Contents include articles on ‘John Cabot and his Italian financiers’ by Francesco Guidi-Bruscoli; ‘The medicalization of poverty in colonial India’ by David Arnold; ‘The origins of ‘liberalism’ in Britain: the case of The Liberal‘ by D. M. Craig; and ‘Pain, sympathy and the medical encounter’ by Joanna Bourke. Full contents on the Historical Research/Wiley web pages