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Witchcraft in Europe

            Throughout all of Western Europe an extensive amount of witch hunts took place between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. Within this time a development took place from that of a religious society towards one that was more educated and experimental, seeking to find logical answers to explain life disasters. Witchcraft was believed in every level of society therefore it was common to see every catastrophe as a result of the actions of witches. However towards the beginning of the eighteenth century witch hunts decreased dramatically. Reasons for the decline include a development in the intellectual mind of society, a stricter judicial system, changes in religion and the fact that quality of life increasingly improved compared to the life lived by those prior to the eighteenth century. All of these lead to a progression in society which no longer believed in persecuting witches meaning that, although the belief of witchcraft had not been completely stamped out by the year 1700, the changes at this period were strong enough to silence the doubt that had once fueled the intensive witch hunts and trials previously. .
             Initially the belief in supernatural beings dominated the view of those during the fifteenth and sixteenth century, yet as the system of education was improving and people became to question and find rational answers, the belief in witchcraft dwindled. In an age which was beginning to discover scientific discoveries, such as the work of Galileo and Newton, these experiments defied the traditional ways of how the world worked, encouraging others to challenge old theories through ˜empirical investigation.' Basing arguments on the foundations of the classical writers such as Aristotle no longer produced valid views, as such work supported the belief of witchcraft because these writers had not the knowledge now known in modern times. (Oldridge 2002, p. 368) Writers such as Reginald Scot, Samuel Harsnet and John Webster published influential work which condemned all connections between witches and the devil to be ludicrous.

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