This article explores the trauma that early modern witchcraft trials inflicted on survivors and their communities. The point of departure is the case of Margareth Los, a widow accused of witchcraft in 1520s Württemberg. Subjected to brutal torture, Los was acquitted provisionally after three years in jail. Remarkably, she had the strength to produce an account of her ordeal and to bring her case before the highest court of justice in the Empire. The historical literature on witch trials has long been polarized by the quest for the most “accurate” death tolls. However, the social cost of witch hunts cannot be assessed by the number of death sentences alone. As Los’s case illustrates, witch hunts often had inconclusive outcomes, leaving the accused in a legal limbo that could last for years or even decades. Only one outcome was always the same: witch trials left behind a population of uprooted, dispossessed, and traumatized individuals.
Research Article| May 01 2020
Daniel Jütte; Survivors of Witch Trials and the Quest for Justice in Early Modern Germany. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 May 2020; 50 (2): 349–375. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-8219590
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