Witchcraft, the Press and Crime in Ireland, 1822-1922

Andrew Sneddon, John Fulton

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Abstract

Drawing on witchcraft cases reported in newspapers and coming before Ireland's courts, this article argues that witch belief remained part of Protestant and Catholic popular culture throughout the long nineteenth century. It is shown that witchcraft belief followed patterns established in the late eighteenth century and occasioned accusations that arose from interpersonal tensions rather than sectarian conflict. From this article, a complex picture emerges of the Irish witches and their 'victims', who are respectively seen to have fought accusation and bewitchment using legal, magical, physical, and verbal means. In doing so, the contexts are revealed in which witchcraft was linked to other crimes such as assault, slander, theft, and fraud in an era of expansion of courts and policing. This illustrates how Irish people adapted to legal changes while maintaining traditional beliefs, and suggests that witchcraft is an overlooked context in which interpersonal violence was exerted and petty crime committed. Finally, popular and elite cultural divides are explored through the attitudes of the press and legal authorities to witchcraft allegations, and an important point of comparison for studies of witchcraft and magic in modern Europe is established.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)741-764
Number of pages24
JournalHistorical Journal
Volume62
Issue number3
Early online date5 Nov 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019

Keywords

  • Witchcraft
  • Ireland
  • magic
  • 1822-1922
  • Witchcraft accusation
  • Crime

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