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Europe's Inner Demons (1975)

by Norman Cohn

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319580,535 (3.86)4
Europe's Inner Demons is a fascinating history of the irrational need to imagine witches and an investigation of how those fantasies made the persecutions of the middle ages possible. In addition, Norman Cohn's discovery that some influential sources on European witch trials were forgeries has revolutionized the field of witchcraft, making this one of the most essential books ever written on the subject.… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
This one took a bit longer than expected – Mr. Cohn managed to distil a lot of research, dates, facts, people and events into a very compact volume.

But he did a good job of it. While at times, it does show its age somewhat – some of the references are a bit dated – as a whole, Europe’s Inner Demons was an enjoyable read. Cohn takes the reader all the way from the origins of the witchcraft myth in the Greco-Roman/Pre-Christian era and all the way up to the threshold of the “iconic” great witch-trials of the 1600’s.

From time to time, however, it does get a bit technical, requiring a bit more from the reader than other books in its “category”. And yet time and time again, I found myself thinking “that makes perfect sense – in a way” when faced with mr. Cohn’s arguments.
He takes the “conventional” concepts surrounding witchcraft, the great witch hunts, and of course the concept of maleficium to account, picking them apart with rational, solid arguments underpinned by exquisite references.

From the reader’s perspective, you come to realise that in many of the iconic cases, the trials and persecutions were the result of mass hysteria and other perfectly explainable sources. He even has a go at the “pop culture” incarnation of witchcraft.

This book was a challenge – in more ways than one. It challenged my conceptions and prejudices about the subject, but it was also a challenge to get through at times. Mr. Cohn is almost pedantic at times about his level of detail. If you like Medieval history, give it a go – but know what you’re getting involved with. ( )
  jakadk | Oct 8, 2018 |
Another classic by Cohn. ( )
  clarkland | Dec 17, 2014 |
A brilliant and gripping exploration/deconstruction of some of the most potent myths regarding the origin of witch-persecution in europe. ( )
  ManipledMutineer | May 22, 2007 |
Amazon.com

University of Edinburgh. The European Witch-Hunt. October 2003. http://www.arts.ed.ac.uk/scothist/courses/eurowitchhunt/
  imnotawitch | Dec 5, 2005 |
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Europe's Inner Demons is a fascinating history of the irrational need to imagine witches and an investigation of how those fantasies made the persecutions of the middle ages possible. In addition, Norman Cohn's discovery that some influential sources on European witch trials were forgeries has revolutionized the field of witchcraft, making this one of the most essential books ever written on the subject.

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