17 February 2022

Witchcraft, magic, and society in nineteenth-century Somerset

Although we often think of witchcraft as a practice rooted in medieval and early modern social systems, popular belief remained alive and well in South West England long into the Victorian era.

In the 1990s Owen Davies conducted systematic newspaper surveying and record linkage research regarding the continued belief in witchcraft and magic in nineteenth-century Somerset.

This revealed a wealth of court cases and ethnographic material about the complex relationship between the supernatural, agriculture, neighbourly relations, urbanisation, policing, and rural change.

Since then, he has worked with a number of other historians to conduct similar research on other parts of the country. In this talk he will explore these county comparisons. Why is it that there were so many assaults on suspected witches in Somerset? Why were so many cunning-folk prosecuted compared to other parts of the country? There are more questions than answers perhaps – so far.

Speaker: Owen Davies, Professor of History at the University of Hertfordshire. He is the author of numerous books and articles on witchcraft, magic, ghosts, folklore and popular medicine, including A People Bewitched: Witchcraft and Magic in Nineteenth Century Somerset and most recently A Supernatural Struggle: Magic, Divination and Faith During the First World War.

How to take part

This free, online talk will be held over Zoom. Please book your place below. Details of how to join the session will be in your registration email. Please check your spam folder if the email does not arrive. Bookings close at 4pm on Thursday 17 February.

Although this talk is free, we would be grateful if you could consider making a donation.

Please visit the Zoom website for guidance on joining meetings.

This is a UWE Regional History Centre talk in partnership with M Shed seminar series.