I started reading this book over a year ago. I got half way through and gave up. I think it just wasn't what I was wanting to be reading at the time. The first half of the book read mostly like a biography of the early lives of the two witch-finders, Mathew Hopkins and John Stearne and their initial "success" as witch-finders.
The second half moves away from the witch-finders themselves and looks more at the people being accused, examples from the cases and puts the whole thing in the historical collection of the civil war. I found the second half very interesting. Usually when people look at witchcraft trials it focuses on the similarity with other cases, but here situating it within the bigger historical setting made for much more interesting and insightful reading.
While the style still seemed to be a bit on the bare facts and not so much on the analysis I still really enjoyed it. It brought home the fear and superstition of the period. Also it mentioned how at this time there were some women itinerant preachers, which I had no idea about.
The witch hunts differed from the accounts of Warboys and Salem where children became possessed and accused people of witchcraft. Here there were hardly any accounts of possession, rather the investigations focused on imps and "teets" on the witches bodies. While these events were happening there was a large dissent against it, eventually the cost and the ridicule of the witch-finders led to their loosing popularity and the cases severely diminished.
I felt this book really added to scholarship on the witch hunts in England. It made me want to go and read other books about the period. So while it took me a long time to finish I'd still highly recommend it....Continua