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HIST 237: Geographies of Witchcraft and the Occult in Early Modern Europe (HC): Primary Sources

History 237: Geographies of Witchcraft and the Occult in Early Modern Europe (Hayton) Spring 2017

A Medieval View of Witches

                                                    Source: Wikimedia Commons

Two Waldensian Witches, from Le champion des dames


This illumination depicts two women, one astride a broom and the other sitting upon a stick. The women both wear long-sleeved dresses with scooped necklines, black boots, and white head coverings. The figures of the women adorn the margins of a fifteenth-century manuscript of Martin le Franc’s poem Le champion des dames, a defense of virtuous women. The inscription above their heads identifies them as vaudoises, or Waldensians. Named heretics in 1215, Waldensians followed the teachings of Peter Waldo, a layman who began preaching in Lyon in the late 1170s. Waldensians adhered to vows of poverty and, perhaps most threatening to church authority, allowed preaching and consecration of the sacrament by any layperson, including women. Conflict arose between the Church and Waldensian believers over the next two centuries, with the Church accusing Waldensians of practicing witchcraft and holding illicit Sabbath celebrations. Lorenzo Lorenzi suggests that this image of Waldensian witches represents a transition from imaging witches as demonic and hypersexual to a more disconcerting depiction as humble, everyday women whose depravity is not immediately perceptible in their appearance.

Inquisition Sources

Anthologies of Inquisition Sources in Printed Form

Sources that have been edited, reprinted in facsimiles, or transferred to microfilm can be borrowed through E-ZBorrow or Interlibrary Loan if they are not in Tripod. Many of them will be listed in Tripod or WorldCat under subject terms and the word "sources." For example, the search inquisition sources produces books including:

Manuscripts and rare books about the Inquisition are available in Philadelphia-area libraries.  See in particular the Henry Charles Lea collection in the Rare Book Room at the University of Pennsylvania.  Lea did pioneering work on the history of the Inquisition.  The finding aid for the Lea Research Collection indicates the range of manuscripts available both from Spain and Latin America.  


Collections Online

Primary sources, accounts and other kinds of documents written at the time of an event or era, allow a nuanced and detailed understanding of historical issues.  Sources can take many different forms.  Categories below describe online collections, anthologies in print, and selected texts that are particularly significant.


Digital Collections

Primary Sources from the British Isles

Primary Sources from the Continent

Texts in Print