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HISTORY 3HI3 Advanced Historical Inquiry

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Nik Must

Email: mustns@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 607C

Phone: 905-525-9140 x


Office Hours: 12:00-14:00, CNH 607C

Course Objectives:

The European Witch Craze (1480-1700) remains one of the most fascinating and disturbing episodes in European history. This is in part because it confronts us with a historical reality that seems on the surface quite different from that found in the West today. Students are often puzzled, for example, by the intensity and widespread nature of belief in witchcraft at that time, and in the use of judicial torture on accused witnesses.

Over the last several decades, scholars have found the Witch Craze useful for rethinking long held assumptions about the intellectual, political and social character of the Early Modern Period. The Witch Craze after all coincided with the Renaissance, a time of intense intellectual ferment that is often linked to fundamental changes in scientific knowledge. The predominance of women among the accused also points to a gendered historical culture that remained persistently unfavourable, and even hostile, to women. Still other scholars find witch trials appearing in locales struck by religious division in the wake of the Reformation, and/or economic and social dislocation.It is precisely because of its popularity as a field of historical investigation that the Witch Craze is well suited for a course focused upon the examination of changing historical approaches. Over the following ten weeks, students will be introduced to the study of the Witch craze from many different perspectives.

Advanced Historical Inquiry has emerged as an initiative in the Department of History after extensive discussions about what we as historians feel students need to know about the practice and habits of the field. 3HI3 is intended to engage students in an exploration of both the philosophical and scientific aspects of the study of human societies while encouraging the further development of a critical eye to sources and narrations of historical events in texts and on the web.

Students will develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of the historical craft; acquire a more nuanced reading of secondary sources, with an eye to their place within existing fields’ literature, themes, etc.; compare and contrast competing perspectives within specific historiographic debates; search for and identify potential research questions that emerge from their readings and discussions, and hone written and oral communication skills.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

- Brian Levack, The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe

- Edward Bever, The Realities of Witchcraft and Popular Magic in Early Modern Europe

- Carlo Ginzburg, Night Battles

- Online sources via LEARN

Method of Assessment:

Assignment                                        Grade Value                Due Date

Short reading responses             2pp, 4x5% 20%            Weeks 4, 5, 6, 7, & 9

Secondary Source Critical Review      3pp. 15%                    Week 8

Secondary Source Critical Review       3pp 15%                    Week 10

Historiographical Paper                       6pp. 25%                    Week 12

Participation                                                25%               Throughout term

TOTAL                                                       100%


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:


Submission of Course Work

Students are advised to retain a photocopy of each essay they submit, and to keep all research notes for their essays. History essays will be marked for clarity of writing, grammar, and organization, in addition to content and analysis. Work should be submitted on time. Permission to submit a late assignment is at the discretion of the instructor and, except in exceptional instances, a penalty will be imposed for late submission without prior discussion with me (3% per day).


Extensions and Accommodations (MSAF)

Extensions or other accommodations will be determined by the instructor and will only be considered if supported by appropriate documentation. Absences of less than 5 days may be reported using the McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF) at www.mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you are unable to use the MSAF, you should document the absence with your faculty office. In all cases, it is YOUR responsibility to follow up with the instructor immediately to see if an extension or other accommodation will be granted, and what form it will take. There are NO automatic extensions or accommodations.


Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Week 1 – 11 September



Week 2 – 18 September

Medieval roots of early modern witchcraft

Jennifer Kolpacoff Deane, “Medieval Magic, Demonology, and Witchcraft”

Michael Bailey, “From Sorcery to Witchcraft”

Malleus maleficarum excerpts


Week 3 – 25 September

Theoretical and chronological overview of early modern witchcraft

Levack, chs 1-3 & 7-8


Week 4 – 2 October

Who were the witches, part 1: Social history

Levack, chs 5-6

Richard Horsley, “Who were the witches? The Social Roles of the Accused in the European Witch trials”

Alison Rowlands, “Witchcraft and Old Women in Early Modern Germany”




Week 5 – 16 October

Who were the witches, part 2: Gender and women's history

Moshe Sluhovsky, “The Devil in the Convent”

Anne Barstow, “On Studying Witchcraft as Women’s History”

E.J. Kent, “Masculinity and Male Witches”


Week 6 – 23 October

Why a witchcraze, part 1: Religion and culture

Levack, ch 4

Gary Waite, Heresy, Magic, and Witchcraft (excerpts)

Stuart Clark, “Inversion, Misrule and the Meaning of Witchcraft”

Luther on Galatians (excerpts)


Week 7 – 30 October

Why a witchcraze, part 2: States and courts

Brian Levack, “The Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1661-1662”

Alfred Soman, “The Parlement of Paris and the Great Witch Hunt”

Jeffrey Watt, “Love Magic”

King James, Daemonologie, preface


Week 8 – 6 November

Why a witch, part 1: Interdisciplinary approaches to the problem

Edward Bever, The Realities of Witchcraft and Popular Magic in Early Modern Europe

Bever review due in class.


Week 9 – 13 November

Why a witch, part 2: Psychohistory

Lyndal Roper, “Witchcraft and Fantasy in Early Modern Germany”

Charles Zika, “Cannibalism and Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe: Reading the Visual Images”


Week 10 – 20 November

Why a witch, part 3: Microhistory

Carlo Ginzburg, Night Battles

Ginzburg review due in class.


Week 11 – 27 November

Literary and rhetorical representations of witchcraft

Gerhild Scholz Williams, “Pursuing the Inside Other”

Andrew Chambers, “Possession, Literacy and 'Superstition'”

Charlotte Wells, “Leeches on the Body Politic”


Week 12 – 4 December

Conclusions and review

Levack, ch 9

Final Paper due in class.