Witches and Witch Hunting in Europe

Subject 131-085 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2009.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 1.5-hour lecture and a 1-hour tutorial per week
Total Time Commitment: 2.5 contact hours/week , 6 additional hours/week. Total of 8.5 hours per week.
Prerequisites: Usually 12.5 points of first-year history.
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/disability


Erica Mehrtens
Phone: x45953
Subject Overview: This subject is a study of beliefs about witches and witchcraft. The subject traces the social, political, legal and cultural changes which led to witch trials and witch-hunts in western Europe and New England between the late middle ages and the end of the 17th century. Students will focus on the transformation of popular sorcery and magic into the heresy and crime of witchcraft, the social dynamics of trials, regional variations throughout Europe, and the role of gender and sexuality in the creation of panics.
  • be able to identify and understand the different social, legal and religious processes by which popular sorcery was transformed into the belief system and crime of witchcraft in early modern Europe;
  • appreciate the ways in which a category such as 'the witch' can be historically contructed;
  • understand the extent to which large-scale moral panics are dependent on a wide range of cultural discourses and institutional supports.
Assessment: A document exercise of 1000 words 25% (due during the semester), a research essay of 3000 words 65% (due at the end of semester) and class participation 10%.
Prescribed Texts:
Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • demonstrate research skills through competent use of the library and other information sources;
  • show critical thinking and analysis through recommended reading, essay writing and tutorial discussion, and by determining the strength of an argument;
  • demonstrate understanding of social, ethical and cultural context through the contextualisation of judgements, developing a critical self-awareness, being open to new ideas and possibilities and by constructing an argument.
Notes: Formerly available as 131-445. Students who have completed 131-445 are not eligible to enrol in this subject.
Related Course(s): Diploma in Arts (Gender Studies)
Diploma in Arts (History)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Ancient, Medieval && Early Modern Studies Major
Gender Studies
Gender Studies
Gender Studies
Gender Studies Major
History Major

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