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‘Vermin and Devil-Worshippers’: Exploring Witch Identities in Popular Print in Early Modern Germany and England

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Author Biography

Natalie Grace is a History PhD student at the University of Nottingham researching witchcraft in print in Germany and England. She is funded by the Midlands4Cities DTP and supervised by Dr David Gehring and Dr Simone Laqua-O’Donnell.

Twitter: @Witchy_Nat

Midlands4Cities VPP: https://www.midlands4cities.ac.uk/student_profile/natalie-grace/

Abstract

This paper compares the creation of witch identities in news reports about witchcraft printed in Germany and England (1560 – 1650). The scale of witch-hunts and witchcraft reports differed dramatically in Germany and England. This difference, however, masks similarities in the created identities of witches in both countries. Both sometimes overlooked male witches, a decision shaped by reporters’ need to engage readers with sensational stories. Witch identities in both countries were always fluid, although this fluidity was especially evident during periods of intense witch-hunting. Ultimately, a diabolic connection and evil nature were the defining characteristics of witches in both Germany and England. In portraying the witch as a diabolic other – as ‘vermin and devil-worshippers’ – the pamphleteers in Germany and England created an enemy against whom Christian readers could unite.

Keywords: witchcraft, Germany, England, early modern, identity, sex, gender, crime, news, popular print, diabolism

‘Vermin and Devil-Worshippers’: Exploring Witch Identities in Popular Print in Early Modern Germany and England

Who, or what, is a witch? Belief in witches and witchcraft can be found, in some form, throughout history across the globe.[1] Yet a scholarly consensus on what exactly defines a witch remains elusive. Even contemporaries during the early modern European witch-hunts – which claimed the lives of roughly 45,000 people between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries – struggled to find a coherent definition of a witch.[2] The difference of opinion was not a simple separation between so-called ‘popular’ and ‘elite’ thinking. Rather, ideas about witches and witchcraft varied significantly at every level of society. Historians have long been interested in untangling the complex web of meanings surrounding witchcraft, but extant sources pose a problem when trying to explore the identity of the witches themselves. Even witches’ confessions, recorded in trial documents and news reports in the first person, are not unmediated windows on their thoughts and feelings.[3] Trial records are full of silences. Since questions were not often recorded, identifying leading questions and when the questioner has shaped the answers is challenging. Records of trials, whether they be court documents or news reports, often underwent significant editing, translation, and shaping to present a coherent narrative.[4] Some scholars argue that, by seeking signs of resistance in the records, it is possible to identify some semblance of the witch’s own ideas and agency.[5] This article, however, explores how the identity of the witch was constructed and created by others – namely, the writers and printers of witchcraft news reports.

This article examines such reports about witchcraft, from Germany and England, between 1560 and 1650. The witch-hunts in Germany and England could both be considered exceptional for different reasons. Germany – or, more properly, the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation – has been dubbed ‘the heartland of the witch craze’ and ‘the mother of witches’: approximately 25,000 people were executed for the crime of witchcraft there.[6] The picture in England was different: around 1000 people were tried, and approximately 500 executed by hanging.[7] For some scholars, the comparatively mild approach to witch-hunting, and what they view as a lack of popular acceptance of the diabolic nature of witchcraft – that is, the notion that witches’ power was derived from making a pact with the Devil and Devil-worship marked England out as distinct from mainland Europe.[8] Of course, the suggestion that either was exceptional implies that there were norms of witch-hunting in other parts of Europe, but decades of detailed witchcraft research demonstrate that every country and region had its own idiosyncrasies in its approaches to witch-hunting. While the scale of witch-hunting differed considerably in Germany and England, the two countries also shared several characteristics. Both experienced significant religious upheaval, because of the Reformation. They also experienced significant political upheaval in the form of civil strife and warfare, including the Thirty Years’ War in central Europe (1618 – 1648) and the British Civil Wars (1642 – 1651).[9]  As will become clear in this paper, these periods of conflict coincided with significant witch-hunts in the respective countries. Both also had vibrant print industries. In England, this industry was concentrated primarily (although not solely) in London, while in Germany several print centres emerged including Augsburg, Nuremberg, Erfurt, Leipzig, and Cologne. These print centres, coupled with developments in communication networks, and cheaper production of paper, led to a growing popular print industry by the second half of the sixteenth century.[10]

The news reports on witchcraft discussed here were part of this wider growth in print. More specifically, they belong to the genre of crime reporting, alongside reports of other lurid and serious crimes such as murder. They were printed in the form of short pamphlets (approximately eight pages), chapbooks, single-sheet broadsheets, and ballads. Such documents often claimed to be ‘truthful’ (wahrhaftig) and ‘authentic’ (glaubwürdig), but they were not objective factual reports.[11] Rather, they were literary constructions, moulded by their authors (who were, in most cases, anonymous) to appeal to their readers and to present certain perspectives. Such representation was only indirectly related to actual events; pamphlets and ballads tended to report only the most sensational and atypical cases because they were likely to attract buyers.[12] It should not be assumed, therefore, that these accounts are simply reflections of existing ideas. The value of these sources for studying witchcraft in Germany has been demonstrated by Wolfgang Behringer, Harald Sipek, Ursula-Maria Krah, Robert Walinski-Kiehl, and Abaigéal Warfield.[13] Similar arguments have been made by Barbara Rosen, Marion Gibson, Carla Suhr, James Sharpe, and Charlotte-Rose Millar regarding witchcraft in England.[14] Witch news reports were accessible to a wider audience than the learned treatises that have often been the focus of witchcraft research; they were cheaper, shorter, and often illustrated or written with a tune to be sung aloud, ensuring that their message could be disseminated beyond the literate elite. They offer, therefore, the opportunity to explore what the wider populace learned about witchcraft. Millar has recently demonstrated the importance of these sources for exploring witch identities, offering an insight into male witches in English witchcraft pamphlets and highlighting the need for diabolism to be integrated into our understanding of English witchcraft.[15]

While this essay echoes Millar’s conclusions, it goes further by closely comparing German and English witch identities. Such comparison has not been undertaken previously. Comparative research remains rare in witchcraft scholarship, despite notable studies including the works of Johannes Dillinger, Laura Stokes, and Louise Nyholm Kallestrup demonstrating the merits of the approach.[16] Historiographical reviews of both English and German witchcraft note the potential for comparative work to yield new insights.[17]  This study provides convincing evidence for commonalities between German and English witch identities, while acknowledging and explaining differences. In doing so, it deepens our understanding of witchcraft in both countries, provides a framework to consider overarching trends in a way that is not possible with regional case studies, and highlights the potential of comparative research in the field of witchcraft. It asks what characteristics pamphleteers in both countries considered to be quintessential to the witch. It also considers how the genre of crime reporting and the intentions and priorities of pamphleteers shaped their approach to witch identities.

The essay is divided into four parts. Part one investigates pamphleteers’ approach to sex and gender, aspects of witch identity central in the historiography; part two considers how the need for sensational and shocking stories influenced the choices made by pamphleteers, and compares a sensational case that was reported in both countries; part three looks at the wider witch identity and considers the extent to which the identity broke down during times of intense witch-hunting; finally, part four shows the centrality of diabolism and evil nature in the witch identity, and argues that the moralistic and religious tone of the pamphlets explains their emphasis on these characteristics. Ultimately, the essay demonstrates that, while they are not identical, there are clear overlaps in the witch identities created by German and English pamphleteers.

What the Devil cannot do himself he does through an old woman’: Sex and Gender in Witchcraft Reports

In Germany and England, the female criminal was an anomaly, although the percentage of men and women prosecuted varied in different localities. According to Jeanette Kamp, some major European cities such as London, Leiden, and Glasgow had relatively high proportions of female criminals (30 to 50 percent), but others, such as Frankfurt am Main, had a much lower rate of female prosecution (22 percent).[18] Nevertheless, the majority of those who were officially prosecuted were men.[19] Men and women were also traditionally accused of different crimes. Men were the chief offenders in major crimes including treason, heresy, and murder. Women tended to be involved in crimes which undermined public order, such as slander, scolding, sexual impropriety, or property offences.[20] Two serious crimes, however, were closely associated with women: infanticide and witchcraft. In England, 90 percent of those executed for witchcraft were women.[21] In Germany, the figure was closer to 80 percent, although this masks significant regional variations across the Empire.[22]

The connection between witches and women has prompted much debate. In the 1960s and ‘70s, second-wave feminists viewed the witch as evidence of the longstanding oppression of women by patriarchal structures. Andrea Dworkin and Mary Daly argued that the witch-hunts were ‘gynocide’, claimed erroneously that the hunts cost the lives of nine million women, and suggested that the high proportion of widows and spinsters among the accused is evidence that witch-hunts targeted women ‘whose crime [was] independence’.[23] These claims have been criticised for their ahistorical use of terms such as misogyny and patriarchy, neglect of archival evidence, and their refusal to treat male witches as a worthy subject of investigation.[24] They did, however, highlight the need to investigate relationships across sex, gender, and witchcraft properly. Subsequent explorations have added depth and nuance to our understanding of the connections.[25] Significant work has been done to integrate male witches and masculinities into discussions.[26] Considerations of gender and witchcraft also increasingly emphasise the need to move away from simple binaries, and to explore ‘how and to what extent gender was intrinsic to the identity of the witch’.[27]

Julian Goodare suggests that different ideas about witches and women existed at learned and popular levels.[28] Because witchcraft news reports appealed to both learned and popular audiences, it is worth considering how they navigated the relationship between witchcraft and women. The majority of German and English news reports published between 1560 and 1650 solely discuss female witches. Woodcut illustrations – important because they communicated ideas to illiterate or semi-literate audiences – feature primarily women. The Examination and Confession of Certaine Witches (1566), for example, which warned its readers about ‘feminine dames […] whom sathan hath infect’, included depictions of each of the three women who feature in the text.[29] Another, A Rehearsall Both Straung and True (1579), contains two depictions of women feeding animals or alongside demon-like creatures.[30] In Germany, the title page of A Truthful Report from the Town of Osnabrück (1588) shows a woman, whose crooked stance and supporting stick gives her an aged appearance, reaching out to a scaly, horned creature, presumably the Devil.[31] The image bears a resemblance to the woodcut showing a woman and the Devil embracing in Ulrich Molitor’s Of Witches and Diviner Women (first published 1489), indicating perhaps that printers took inspiration in their depictions of witches from learned treatises.[32] Another German woodcut, on the title page of A Truthful Report Concerning Wicked Witches (1571) shows four women, naked or barely dressed, with long flowing hair, gathered around a cooking pot with bones strewn on the ground around them.[33] The nakedness, loose hair, and the cooking pot are all symbols which Charles Zika suggests represented the connection between witchcraft and women in art during the late fifteenth century.[34] These features once again indicate that ideas about witches and women from other learned sources were adopted and disseminated in these pamphlets. The connection between witches and women is not restricted to visual imagery. It is sometimes explicitly stated in the text. Several German reports from the late 1570s and early 1580s, for example, include the phrase ‘as the old saying goes, what the devil cannot do himself, he does through an old woman’.[35] This statement, presented as received wisdom, implies that writers were simply reflecting a popular notion that old women were in league with the Devil and were, therefore, archetypal witches.

Yet it is important not to take such statements at face value. Some pamphleteers appear to have actively curated an image of the witch as exclusively female, disregarding the facts of the events that they were reporting. Of the 72 reports surveyed for this paper, 24 (thirteen English and eleven German) include references to men accused of or executed for the crime of witchcraft. In some cases, however, male witches are relatively downplayed or overlooked. The clearest example is two English pamphlets from 1579 discussing a trial in Windsor. The first is A Rehearsall Straung and True. This pamphlet names ‘fower notorious witches’ on its title page: Elizabeth Stile alias Rockingham, Mother Dutten, Mother Devell, and Mother Margaret.[36] The text provides the testimony of Elizabeth Stile, who begins by naming other witches. The first name she gives is Father Rosimond.[37] Father Rosimond reappears later in Elizabeth’s confession, as she describes meeting with the other witches to perform ‘heinous and vilanous practices’: he is, once again, the first person she names.[38] A Brief Treatise Containing the Most Strange and Horrible Cruelty of Elizabeth Stile alias Rockingham and her Confederates (1579) discusses the same events. It is written by Richard Galis, an apparent first-hand victim of the witches. Galis also refers to Father Rosimond. He describes seeking Father Rosimond’s advice about suspected sorcery and witchcraft, indicating that Father Rosimond acted as a cunning man.[39] Galis reports that Elizabeth named ‘diverse men as well as women, that used to do much harm by sorcery, witchcraft, and enchantments.’[40] In both pamphlets, however, Elizabeth’s naming of Father Rosimond as a witch is downplayed in the overall narrative. The pamphlets inform readers that Elizabeth and three other women that she named were executed, but Father Rosimond’s fate remains unclear. Galis’s choice of language makes his position clear. He talks of how the ‘sisters’ gathered to perform their sorcery – a gathering at which Elizabeth states Father Rosimond was present – and, in his conclusion, warns his readers about the ‘daughters of the devil’.[41] The reader is left with the distinct impression that witches are women.

A similar technique can be observed in a German pamphlet – A True and Authentic Report: How 225 Women were Burned in the Year 1582 – which reported numerous witch trials in the south of the Empire. The word choice in the title is significant. The writer used the German Weiber which translates as ‘women’ or, alternatively, ‘hags’.[42] Different terms which include both men and women, such as Unholden (fiends), appear in other German pamphlet titles.[43] The choice of Weiber here suggests that the author of this pamphlet wanted to place emphasis on the fact that the witches were female despite the fact that within the text there are scattered references to male witches. Indeed, the report states that ‘44 women and three men’ were captured and burned in the county of Montbéliard.[44] It also mentions a male sorcerer (Hexenmeister) in Colmar.[45] At the end of the report, however, the author warns of Satan’s power over ‘his weak instruments of the female sex’.[46] Evidently, this pamphlet’s author felt that sex was a defining component of witch identity. In both English and German sources, then, there is a clear emphasis on female witches and male witches’ roles are downplayed. Why exactly did pamphleteers in both countries choose to emphasise female witches in this way?

‘The most monstrous act that ever man heard of’: Sensationalism and shock in the shaping of witch identities

The attention given to female witches can be explained, at least partially, by the conventions of the crime reporting genre to which these sources belong. Alongside claims to be ‘truthful’, reports emphasise the shocking nature of their stories using terms like ‘wonderful’, ‘strange’, and ‘terrifying’.[47] The juxtaposition of truth and shock leads Warfield to characterise such sources as ‘a forerunner for our own modern-day fascination with “true crime” series and documentaries’.[48] Attention-grabbing headlines ensured the purchase of the pamphlet in an increasingly competitive market; put another way, they were the early modern equivalent of ‘clickbait’. Andrew Pettegree suggests that there was ‘a particular fascination with the crimes of women […] because they were so rare’.[49] Several scholars have noted that the audience for such cheap print was ‘socially variegated’ and ‘assumed a broad social consensus of shared values’.[50] Yet the people most likely to purchase these documents, especially in the earlier years of the period examined here – and the audience, therefore, that printers were particularly seeking to entice – were ‘the literate upper levels of early modern society.’[51] For members of this stratum of society who had achieved some level of security and comfort, news pamphlets like these witchcraft reports ‘spoke to [their] deepest fears of attacks on established social and gender hierarchies.’[52] Reporting on witchcraft offered an ideal opportunity for pamphleteers and printers to tap into the market for dramatic tales of women who had contravened societal norms, which may go some way to explaining why writers chose to only mention female witches in the titles of their pamphlets in the examples above. Criminal women were more sensational than criminal men, and the reports on such women nurtured the anxieties of upper-class men who sought to maintain their positions within the social order.

The role of sensationalism in moulding the witch identities in these reports is illustrated by the fact that, where male witches do feature prominently, the stories were especially sensational and shocking. Both German and English reports discussing male witches accuse them of a litany of dreadful crimes. The English pamphlet discussing Lewis Gaufredy, a French priest who was convicted for witchcraft, emphasises his duplicitousness and how he used his diabolic powers to seduce and rape women.[53] A German pamphlet reporting the prosecution of a family of witches, but primarily focusing on the men in the family, accused them not only of witchcraft, but also multiple counts of murder, theft, and arson.[54] The case of Peter Stumpf, who was executed in Bedburg near Cologne in 1589, is particularly sensational. Alongside sorcery, Stumpf was accused of child-murder, incestuous rape, and cannibalism. His crimes obviously captured the European imagination. Alongside four surviving German reports, his story was translated and printed in Dutch, Danish, and English.[55] The English version, printed in London in 1590, claims to be a translation from a German copy, but does not match any of the extant versions.[56] The survival rate for such ephemeral literature is extremely low, so it is possible that the source text for the translation has simply not survived. It is, however, also plausible that the author simply claimed it was a translation to lend legitimacy to the account, a common tactic when reporting foreign news.[57]

The survival of German and English examples of this case offers a rare opportunity to directly compare witch reporting and the creation of witch identities in the two countries. The extant German copies are three broadsheets (all written in verse) and one pamphlet; the English version is a pamphlet.[58] There are some similarities across the five sources. All report Stumpf’s crimes, including the murder of thirteen children, eating his son’s brain, and sleeping with his daughter. All proclaim the incredible nature of the tale: one German broadsheet talks of Stumpf’s ‘unspeakable shame and vice’, while another claims his story is ‘too terrifying to hear’; the English pamphlet reports that Stumpf ‘did more mischeefe and cruelty then would be credible, although high Germany hath been forced to talke the truth thereof.’[59] Both the German and the English texts give the impression that Stumpf was, in a twisted way, a celebrity. One of the broadsheets is written from Stumpf’s own perspective, offering a vicarious insight into the imagined mindset of a serial killer.[60] The English version describes him as a ‘most wicked sorcerer’.[61] According to Sara Barker, focusing the story on a central character was a common technique in news reporting, allowing the reader to create a personal connection.[62]

There are, however, some differences. As Warfield has observed, the English version is far more detailed than any of the German accounts.[63] Comparing the German pamphlet with the English one, the German account spends just two of eight pages discussing Stumpf, before moving on to discuss witch trials happening elsewhere.[64] The English pamphlet devotes nineteen pages solely to discussing Stumpf, providing far more detail about his life, his deeds, failed attempts to capture him, and his final demise. The English pamphlet is particularly hyperbolic in its descriptions of Stumpf: he is ‘a most wicked sorcerer’, he lusted after his daughter ‘most unnaturally, and cruelly committed most wicked incest with her’, and the murder and cannibalisation of his son was ‘the most monstrous act that ever man heard of.’[65]

The extra detail provided in the English report may partially be to aid the reliability of the report, given the foreign origins of the tale. Yet this level of detail and hyperbole is also found in other English witch reports examined for this paper. Similar exaggerations are found in the news ballad from 1628 reporting the murder of Doctor Lambe, an associate of the Duke of Buckingham who was widely believed to be a sorcerer: the ballad describes him as ‘the Devill of our nation’ and states that ‘such a wicked wretch/in England hath liv’d seldom’.[66] These hyperbolic descriptions are not reserved for male witches. In Thomas Potts’s report on the witches of Lancaster, published in 1613, he describes the witchcraft performed there by both male and female witches as ‘the most barbarous and damnable practices’, and labels one of the accused witches, Elizabeth Demdike, as ‘the most dangerous and malitious witch’.[67] Another early English report from 1592 is titled A Most Wicked Worke of a Wretched Witch (the like whereof none can record these manie yeeres in England.).[68] The length of English witch reports is also notable. While the vast majority of the German reports examined for this paper were between eight and sixteen pages long, the length of the English reports varies considerably. It is not uncommon for English witch reports to devote several pages to the description of each individual witch’s character and misdeeds.[69]

The differences between the German and English pamphlets discussing the Stumpf case are, therefore, indicative of a wider difference between German and English witch reports, and one which has a significant impact on the way they treat witch identities and construct sensational stories: scale. In the German version, Stumpf is a case that, while admittedly notable because of his sex and the severity of his crimes, is one of multiple cases of witchcraft across the Empire. The discussion is, therefore, fairly brief. Most German pamphlets report the trials and executions of multiple witches in different regions; they do not tend to focus heavily on individuals’ motivations and lives, but instead emphasise the widespread devastation and threat posed by the witches collectively. The sensationalism which printers needed to sell their stories comes, in these instances, from the extensive and growing nature of the problem. English witch reports, by contrast, tend to report on only one trial in a particular locality and, consequently, they spend more time discussing the individuals involved in the trials. The sensationalism in these reports is more tied to individuals’ failures to conform to societal norms. As a result, the individual witch identity appears more important and more stable in the English pamphlets than it does in the German reports. Yet what characteristics formed part of this identity, and how far were these identities truly fixed in either country?

‘Men and women, young and old, poor and rich’: Breakdown of the Witch Identity

Thus far this article has explored gendering and sensationalism in print. Sex and the gendering of witch identity have dominated historical discussions. In examining the pamphlets, it is clear that they are also the individual characteristics that both English and German witch pamphlets most commonly make reference to: even if German sources discuss large groups of witches, the gendering of the language chosen gives some indication as to the sex of the witches. Historians have, however, highlighted that witch identities were multifaceted.[70]  Historians of both German and English witchcraft have, for example, noted a high proportion of old women among the accused.[71] In many cases, the specific age of the witch is not mentioned in the pamphlets examined for this paper. Yet often when age is mentioned the accused is notably old. A New Report from Bernburg (1580), for example, discusses ‘three old women’, one of whom was 90 years old.[72] Another German account discussing a witch and a Jesuit claims that the witch was 73 years old.[73] In England, Elizabeth Stile – discussed above – was 65 years old.[74] In The Apprehension and Confession of Three Notorious Witches (1589), the only person whose age is recorded is Joan Cunney (80 years old).[75] According to Raisa Maria Toivo, descriptions of witches as old, poor, or lame ‘may have been made to fit the popular notion of how a witch should be rather than a genuinely accurate portrayal.’[76] The way that pamphleteers provide information about the age of the accused when they are particularly old, and are silent on the ages of other witches, supports Toivo’s suggestion that such sources created an idea of what witches ought to have been (in the eyes of the intended audience) rather than simply reflecting reality.

Poverty is another characteristic mentioned by Toivo. This characteristic is also not mentioned by pamphleteers as frequently as sex or gender, but some English pamphlets do draw a clear connection between poverty, lack of education, and witchcraft, as The Witches of Northamptonshire (1612) demonstrates. The author states that those tempted into witchcraft are ‘of the meanest, and the basest sort both in birth and breeding, so are they the most uncapable of any instruction to the contrary’.[77] One witch, Agnes Brown, is described as ‘of poore parentage and poorer education’; another, Arthur Bill, is labelled ‘a wretched, poor man, both in state and mind.’[78] Perhaps because of the differences in scale of the events they are describing, the German pamphlets do not emphasise poverty in the same way. More often, German reports state that witches were ‘poor and rich’.[79] References to rich, handsome, and stately witches can also be found in several German pamphlets in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.[80] These examples indicate that the German witch identity was broader and more malleable that its English counterpart.

While the witch identity in Germany seems to have been comparatively flexible, some German witchcraft historians have suggested that the stereotype broke down entirely during so-called witch panics.[81] This argument was first made by Hans Christian Erik Midelfort, who focused on the increased number of men among the accused during the large-scale witch-hunts in the southern parts of the Empire in the 1610s and 1620s.[82] The reports published in these decades evoke paranoia and fear in their characterisation of witches. One from 1616 states that ‘men and women, young and old, poor and rich, have been executed and burned because of their witchcraft and sorcery’.[83] Similar sentiments are found in the Certain Account of Witch Burnings in the Territory of Bamberg (1628), which describes how ‘gentlemen as well as women’ were burned, and claims that ‘many are arrested daily […] rich, poor, beautiful, men, and women.’[84] A year earlier, A True and Thorough Report from the Bishoprics of Würzburg and Bamberg (1627), warned that anyone could be a witch. The pamphlet opens by lamenting the discovery of ‘many witch men and women’ (vil Hexen Mann und Weib) and explains that  family members could not be certain about whether their relatives were witches.[85] It lists the professions of several witches, including a grocer (ein Kramer), a butcher (ein Metzger), a tanner (ein Gerber), and a schoolmaster (ein Schulmeister).[86]  Taken together, these pamphlets appear to reflect a change in the witch stereotype because pamphleteers specifically emphasised the diverse characteristics of those accused of witchcraft, rather than isolating particular traits.

England never experienced witch-hunts on the same scale as those in Germany. There was, nevertheless, a peak in witch-hunting during the 1640s due to a breakdown of law linked to the British Civil Wars and the zealous witch-hunting of Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne.[87] 100 people were executed in the East Anglia trials, carried out by Hopkins and Stearne in Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk between 1645 and 1647; this figure amounts to a fifth of the total witchcraft executions in England across the early modern period.[88] During these trials, witch reports also reflect a shift in witch identities away from the old, poor, ill-educated woman. More male witches feature in pamphlets published during this decade than any other time.[89] One 1643 report begins by stating that ‘many are in a belief, that this silly sex of women can by no means attaine to that so vile and damned a practise of sorcery, and Witch-craft, in regard of their illiteratenesse and want of learning, which many men have by great learning done.’[90] That the author deemed it necessary to justify the existence of female witches suggests there has been a significant change in thought about what witchcraft is and who can perform it. Another pamphlet, printed in 1645, lists the trials of several groups of witches in various parts of England including Norfolk and Suffolk. This pamphlet, commenting on numerous trials, is more in keeping with the German style of witch reporting than the English, an indication of the shift in scale of witch-hunting in England.[91] In one of the cases reported in this pamphlet, the witch is not an impoverished old woman but is instead described as ‘a gentlewoman or a great lady’.[92]

How far do these examples truly represent a breakdown of the witch stereotype? As Alison Rowlands notes, male witches exist outside major witch-panics; similarly, many other characteristics highlighted in the examples from the 1610s and 20s are present in earlier reports.[93] It may be unusual to see so many varied characteristics side-by-side as they are in the German reports from the 1610s and 20s, but the potential for the broader witch identity is arguably present throughout the reports, as illustrated above. When the wider corpus of German witch reports is considered, the witch stereotype – that is, the idea that the witch identity was largely fixed and narrowly defined as an old, poor, socially-isolated woman – seems to be an illusion. This period represents, rather than a breakdown of the stereotype, an intensification of the enduring flexibility of the German witch identity. Scholars of English witchcraft have expressed similar misgivings about the extent to which the trials of the 1640s can be truly considered atypical. Sharpe argues that, in fact, ‘the alleged witches […] were firmly in the English mainstream’, and Millar agrees that while the period was unusual it did not include anything that had not previously appeared in witchcraft print.[94] The broader witch identities shown in the 1640s English pamphlets are arguably an amalgamation of the possible identities that appear in earlier pamphlets. One of the earliest English pamphlets, published in 1566, features a man accused of witchcraft and argues that ‘not onely simple people have been falsely seduced and superstitiously led’, foreshadowing the emphasis on learned and elite individuals seen in the 1640s pamphlets.[95]

Close analysis of the witch reports from both countries indicates, therefore that the periods of crisis in each respective country unlocked the potential, which had always been present, for flexible witch identities. While some individual characteristics were more closely associated with witchcraft at certain points or in certain reports, the association was not consistent over time. The lack of consensus on which individual characteristics were synonymous with witchcraft that emerges in these pamphlets is actually logical. The ambiguity of the witch is a significant factor in its power to inspire fear. By failing to tie the witch to any one group of society, the news reports contribute to the sense that witchcraft was ever-present and posed a significant threat to all. The role of fear in shaping witch identities explains why they were at their most flexible at times of heightened anxiety about witchcraft. The adaptability of the witch identity is perhaps more obvious in the German reports because of their tendency to focus on several trials at once, meaning individual pamphlets can reflect a diverse range of individuals accused of witchcraft. Individual English pamphlets may create the illusion of a fixed witch identity, but by considering the corpus as a whole, it becomes clear that the situation was more complex.

A witch is one that worketh by the Devil’: Diabolic Identities

Although German and English witch reports did not link witches to one social group, comparison shows that there was a characteristic which pamphleteers in both countries considered quintessential to the witch identity: the witch’s connection with the Devil and their fundamentally evil nature. The connection between witchcraft, diabolism, and heresy is well-established in German scholarship. Imperial law, codified in the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina or Carolina Code (1532), distinguished between harmful and non-harmful magic and only punished the former with death.[96] In practice, however, territorial rulers across the Empire introduced their own legal codes concerning witchcraft. Laws introduced in the Electorate of Saxony in 1572, for example, stated that sorcery was forbidden in the Bible and that ‘those who make a pact with the devil – even if they harm no one with their sorcery – must be executed by fire’.[97] In England, the exact connection between diabolism, witchcraft, and heresy is disputed. Like the Carolina Code, the Elizabethan Witchcraft Act (1563) distinguished between those who performed harmful and non-harmful magic, punishing the former with death on their second offence.[98] The act refers to the existence of ‘many fantasticall and devilishe persons’ but does not specifically link witchcraft with devil-worship.[99] The Jacobean Witchcraft Act (1604) called for ‘more severe punishing’ and removed the distinction between harmful and non-harmful magic.[100] This act mentions consulting with evil and wicked spirits but stops short of placing diabolism at the centre of witchcraft.[101] Clive Holmes suggests that the courts were primarily concerned with ‘harm rather than heresy’, a distinction which seems to suggest significant difference between German and English conceptions of witchcraft.[102]

Recently, however, scholars including Millar and Sharpe have used witchcraft pamphlets to argue that the centrality of diabolism to popular English witch beliefs needs to be re-examined. Sharpe suggests that Christina Larner’s notion of a ‘popular demonic’, the development of well-rooted popular demonology in Scotland, can also be found in England.[103] Millar argues that understanding the role played by diabolism in English witchcraft is key to incorporating male witches into the broader paradigm, because both male and female witches were ultimately defined by their relationship with demonic familiars (a spirit – often in the form of a domestic animal – that made a bond with the witch and did their bidding).[104] The pamphlets certainly draw a clearer connection between the Devil and witchcraft than the statutes. A True and Just Recorde (1582) offers a particularly stark example: the author is openly critical of the leniency of English law, describing witches as ‘that hellish liverie’ and labelling witchcraft ‘a devilish and damnable practice.’[105] They praise ‘magistrates of forren lands’ for treating witchcraft with the severity it deserves.[106] Gibson has noted that this pamphlet is unusual because it specifically draws on ideas from mainland Europe.[107] Yet it is far from the only English pamphlet to consider witchcraft tantamount to heresy and devil-worship. The Witches of Northamptonshire (1612), for instance, offers this definition of witchcraft:

‘A witch is one that worketh by the Devill, or by some Devillish or Curious act, either hurting or healing, revealing things secret, or foretelling things to come, which the Devill hath devised to entangle, and to snare men’s souls withal unto damnation.’[108]

These ideas are remarkably similar to German reports which frequently label witches as ‘devil-worshippers’, the ‘devil’s servants’, or ‘instruments of the Devil’. The connection to the Devil is more explicit in the German reports, often featuring descriptions of meetings between the Devil and groups of witches. Such meetings with the Devil in human form are rare in English pamphlets outside of 1645-50, although the familiar arguably performs a similar role. Additionally, a similar providential explanation for witches’ power exists in German and English reports. In Germany, Lutz’s Concerning Wicked Witches outlines the hierarchy within which witches operate. The hierarchy is as follows: the primary cause of misfortune in God, who permits; the secondary cause is Satan, who brings the misfortune about; the third is the witches, who consent and cooperate with Satan.[109] An analogous explanation of witches’ power is found in the English The Wonderful Discoverie of the Witchcrafts of Margaret and Phillip Flower (1619), which states that ‘divers impious and facinorous [i.e. extremely wicked] mischiefs have been effectuated through the instruments of the Diuell, by the permission of God.’[110]

Clearly, then, not only are Millar and Sharpe correct in their identification of diabolism in English witchcraft pamphlets, but this comparative study demonstrates that there are evident parallels in the characterisation of witches and their connection with the Devil in England and Germany. These resemblances can also be seen in the German and English witch reports’ emphasis on the evil and disruptive nature of the witch. Many English witches are portrayed as outsiders, disliked by their community and driven by revenge. An early English report, for example, describes the examination and confession of three women accused of witchcraft: Elizabeth Francis, Agnes Waterhouse, and Joan Waterhouse.[111] Elizabeth and Agnes are both described as living ‘unquietly’ with their respective spouses, and confess to disposing of their husbands with Satan’s aid; Agnes and Joan both confess to using their witchcraft to take revenge on neighbours who had refused them charity.[112] These descriptions are typical of the deviant quality associated with witches in the English sources. Although the German pamphlets focus more on groups of witches rather than individuals, their wickedness and evil nature is unmistakable. Several pamphlets discuss the witches’ plots to harm and kill people. The idea that witches particularly target babies, new mothers, and older people – presented in many pamphlets including the Expanded Witch Report (1590) – serves to emphasise their implicit wickedness because of their decision to target the weak, innocent, and most vulnerable members of society.[113] Johannes Dillinger suggests that, rather than seeking commonalities in the social characteristics of those accused of witchcraft, scholars should consider that the individual’s reputation for conflict or disruption was the key to their identification as a witch: he terms this the ‘Evil People Paradigm’.[114] A similar argument has been put forward by Rowlands, who argues that the idea of the witch as a ‘bad neighbour’ is ‘a more useful conceptual category than that of the masculine or feminine “other”’.[115] Comparison of English and German witch reports supports the validity of these arguments, suggesting that a person’s moral background and bad nature were central to the witch identity in both countries.

The notion of a diabolic, wholly evil sect was undoubtedly shocking, and as sensationalism has been emphasised throughout the printed works examined here, it is probable that this factor played some role in the ways that witches were characterised. Yet, while sensationalism was important to engage readers, the role of these pamphlets was not merely to entertain. It is unlikely that anyone could have to survived solely on profits made from writing these news pamphlets; it is also unlikely, therefore, that such pamphlets were written purely for commercial gain.[116] Why, then, were these pamphlets written, and how does this influence their construction of witch identities? Several scholars have noted that crime pamphlets, including witchcraft reports, were moralistic and didactic, bearing a close resemblance to sermons in the way that the stories they reported had a clear moral message for their readers.[117] This moral purpose is crucial to understanding the focus of the pamphleteers. These pamphlets did not simply seek to report events, but also to instruct their readers on sinful behaviour, to remind them of the cosmic struggle between God and his foes, and to exhort them to good Christian living.[118] The German and English witch pamphlets often contain laments about sin, other crimes, and the state of the world, and commonly conclude with calls to God to protect them against the ‘tricks and wiles of the Devil and his followers’.[119] The witches are portrayed as a threatening infestation; such ideas are neatly encapsulated in the Expanded Witch Report, which claims that ‘nearly every city, market, and town in all of Germany […] is full of these vermin and devil-worshippers’.[120] Similar rhetoric can be found in an English pamphlet which describes how God ‘weeds [the witches] out in every cell they lurke’.[121] Witch pamphlets in both Germany and England ultimately construct witch identities in a very similar way, with the diabolic connections and evil nature of the witch at the centre of their identity. In doing so, the pamphleteers construct the witch as a wholly evil, diabolic other, acting as a foil for the good Christian readers to whom they appealed and sought to influence.

Conclusion

This article has explored the creation and shaping of witch identities in German and English witch reports from 1560 to 1650. The topic is challenging and complex, making it impossible to cover every aspect of the witch identity sufficiently here. Many other areas would benefit from further exploration. It would be interesting, for example, to examine how the pamphlets in the two countries explained the act of becoming a witch; is it innate, inherited, or learned? Linking to the notion that witchcraft could be inherited, there is also significant scope to explore the notion of the ‘witch family’, a concept discussed elsewhere and a recurring theme in the reports in both countries. Additionally, the role of reputation, briefly mentioned in this piece as it relates to an individual’s bad nature, could be considered in greater depth.

Nevertheless, this article offers the first comprehensive comparison of these German and English witch reports. This comparative approach offers new insights into commonalities and contrasts in English and German constructions of witch identities that had not previously been fully explored. To allow for sufficient and detailed comparison, it has limited its focus to the aspects of witch identity that have drawn the interest of witchcraft historians and emerge most clearly in the pamphlets from both countries. Undoubtedly, one of the most frequently discussed characteristics of the witch is their sex and gender. In this case, clear similarities emerge in both German and English witch reports. Although most witches prosecuted were women in both countries, part one above demonstrates that, even if male witches were present in the trials, pamphleteers in both countries chose to downplay their role and emphasise instead the feminine connection with witchcraft. This tendency to highlight female witches might have been influenced by the need for the pamphlets to catch the eye of their audience. As part two, and particularly the example of Peter Stumpf, illustrates, pamphleteers would put male witches front and centre in their narratives if the story was especially shocking or sensational. Once again, the idea that sensationalism was a driving force in the writing of witch reports applies to both German and English reports, although the Stumpf case and other English examples indicate that the English reports drew their sensationalism from individual actors more than the German sources did.

This observation draws attention to the differences in scope and scale of the German and English witch reports. These differences, on the surface, had a significant influence on the way that witch identities were presented in the two countries. German sources often discussed larger groups of witches or several different trials in one report; the broader scope of these reports meant that the witch identity emerging from individual reports was often fairly diverse, and not limited to a single social group. This diversity was especially evident during the peak of the trials in the south of the Empire during the 1610s and 20s, but this does not represent a total breakdown of the witch stereotype in German reports. Rather, the fear and anxiety that this period generated brought the diverse witch identities to the forefront of the pamphlets to a greater extent than previously, as pamphleteers sought to remind readers that anyone in their community could be a witch. The English witch reports, tending to focus on a small group of witches or on one isolated trial, give the initial impression of a stronger, fixed witch identity centred on impoverished old women. The reports published in the 1640s at first glance seem to represent a departure from this fixed stereotype. As in Germany, however, this period merely realised the potential for more diverse witch identities that had always been present in the English witch reports. The notion that anyone could be a witch was more threatening than was a more limited notion restricting the witch to a small section of society.

Ultimately, both German and English witch reports considered the same characteristics – a connection to the Devil and a wicked nature – to be definitive components of the witch identity. The diabolic connection is more explicit in the German reports which often feature the Devil as a character and include descriptions of the Devil meeting with witches. Nevertheless, scholars such as Millar and Sharpe are correct to highlight the diabolism present in English witchcraft reports. While diabolism may be more implicit than the German accounts, English witch reports frequently describe the witches and their actions as ‘devilish’. Both German and English reports offer similar explanations for the witches’ power, with God giving permission to the Devil to perform harm, who then employs his witches to wreak havoc. The witches in both countries are also presented as wicked or evil, although the way in which the pamphlets convey this idea differs in England and Germany. The reason for emphasising these wicked and devilish characteristics of the witches is clear in light of the purpose of these pamphlets. In portraying the witch as a diabolic other, as ‘vermin and devil-worshippers’, the pamphleteers in both Germany and England created an enemy against whom good Christian readers could unite.

 

Bibliography

Primary Sources

Printed primary sources

Note: Where available, bibliographical references have been provided to the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) in England and the Verzeichnis der im deutschen Sprachbereich erschienenen Drucke des 16. Jahrhunderts (VD16) and the Verzeichnis der im deutschen Sprachraum erschienenen Drucke des 17. Jahrhunderts (VD17) in Germany.

Anon., A Most Certain, Strange, and true Discovery of a Witch (London, 1643). [ESTC R4848]

Anon., A Rehearsall Straung and True, of Hainous and Horrible Actes Committed by Elizabeth Stile alias Rockingham, Mother Dutten, Mother Devell, Mother Margaret, Fower Notorious Witches apprehended at Winsore in the Countie of Berks. (London, 1579). [ESTC S101967]

Anon., A True Discourse. Declaring the Damnable Life and Death of one Stubbe Peeter, a Most Wicked Sorcerer (London, 1590). [ESTC S101735]

Anon., ANNO MDLXXXVI. Ist bey Bedbur ein Zauberer geweßen STUMP PETER genant, welcher sich in einen WOLF verwandelt (s.l., 1589). [No VD16 Catalogue Number]

Anon., Augusten Hertzogen zu Sachsen … Verordnungen und Constitutionen des rechtlichen Process (Dresden, 1572).  [VD16 S 895]

Anon., Des allerdurchleuchtigsten, groszmechtigsten vnüberwindlichsten Keyser Karls des Fünfften, vnd des Heyligen Römischen Reichs peinlich Gerichts ordnung:auff den Reichßtägen zu Augspurg vnd Regenspurg, in jaren dreissig vnd zwey vnd dreissig gehalten, auffgericht vnd beschlossen (Frankfurt am Main, 1562) [VD16 D 1081]

Anon., Ein New kläglich Lied von dem grossen Schaden der Unholden So sie in Westphalen zu Aschenbruegk und andern Orten begangen haben in dem jetztwerenden 1583. Jar (Wesel, 1583). [VD16 ZV 11599]

Anon., Ein Warhafftige und gründliche Beschreibung Auß dem Bistumb Würtz und Bamberg Deßgleichen von dem ganzen Fränkischen Kraiß wie man alda so vil hexen Mann vnd Weibspersohnen verbrennen laßt (S.l., 1627). [No VD17 Catalogue Number]

Anon., Ein Warhafftige Zeitung Von etlichen Hexen oder Unholden welche man kürtzlich im Stifft Mäntz zu Ascheburg, Dipperck,Ostum, Rönßhoffen auch andern Orten verbrendt was Ubels sie gestifft und bekandt haben (Frankfurt am Main, 1603). [VD17 1:691858R]

Anon., En forskreckelig oc sand bescriffuelse om mange troldfolck som ere forbrends for deris misgierninger skyld fra det aar 1589 (Copenhagen, 1591).

Anon., Erweyterte Unholden-Zeitung: Kurze Erzelung wie viel der Unholden hin vnd wider/ sonderlich inn dem Obern Teutschland/ gefängklich eingezogen (Ulm, 1590). [VD16 E 3889]

Anon., Gewisser Bericht des Truten und Hexenbrennens Bambergischen Gebiets wie lang es gewehrt: Was für ubels ihrer Außsag nach sie viel Jahr hero an Menschen, Vihe, Früchten und andern verübet was allbereit verbrennet (Schmalkalden, 1628). [VD17 23:293541Q]

Anon., Newe Zeitung aus Berneburgk Schrecklich und abschewlich zu hoeren und zu lesen von dreyen alten Teuffels Bulerin Hexin oder Zauberinnen (s.l., 1580). [VD16 N 624]

Anon., Signes and Wonders from Heaven (London, 1645). [ESTC R232297]

Anon., The Apprehension and Confession of Three Notorious Witches. Arreigned and by Justice condemned and executed at Chelmes-forde, in the Countye of Essex, the 5. day of Iulye, last past. 1589 (London, 1589). [ESTC S119280]

Anon., The Examination and Confession of Certaine Wytches at Chensforde in the Countie of Essex (London, 1566). [ESTC S2279]

Anon., The Examination, Confession, Triall, and Execution, of Joane Williford, Joan Cariden, and Jane Hott: who were executed at Feversham in Kent, for being witches, on Munday the 29 of September, 1645 (London, 1645). [ESTC R200303]

Anon., The Examination of John Walsh […] upon certayn interrogatories touchyng wytchcrafte and sorcerye (London, 1566) [ESTC S102100]

Anon., The Life and Death of Lewis Gaufredy (London, 1612). [ESTC S102950]

Anon., The Witches of Northamptonshire Agnes Browne. Ioane Vaughan. Arthur Bill. Hellen Ienkenson. Mary Barber. (London, 1612). [ESTC S115086]

Anon., The Wonderful Discouerie of the Witchcrafts of Margaret and Phillip Flower, daughters of Ioan Flower neere Bever Castle (London, 1619). [ESTC S102363]

Anon., Warhaffte und glaubwirdige Zeytung. Wie man in diesem 1582. Jahr wol in die 200. und fuenff und zweyntzig Weiber verbrant hat (Strasbourg, 1582). [VD16 ZV 29564]

Anon., Warhafftige Newe Zeittung auß dem Land Westvahlen von der Stat Ossenbruck wie man da hat auff einen Tag 133. Unholden verbrendt (s.l., 1588). [VD16 W 337]

Anon., Warhafftige und erschreckliche Beschreibung, von einem Zauberer (Stupe Peter genandt) der sich zu einem Wehrwolff hat können machen (Cologne, 1589). [VD16 W 516]

Anon, Warhafftige unnd Erschreckliche Thatten und Handlungen der Lxiij. Hexen unnd Unholden, so zu Wisenstaig, mit dem Brandt gericht worden seindt (Launigen, 1563). [VD16 W 535]

Anon., Warhafftige und Wunderbarlich Newe Zeitung von einem Pauren der sich durch Zauberey des tags siben stund zu ainen Wolff verwandelt hat (Nuremberg, 1589). [No VD16 Catalogue Number]

Anon., Warhafftige und wunderbarliche Newe Zeitung von einem Bawren der sich durch Zauberey deß Tags siben stunnd zu einem Wolff verwandelt hat (Augsburg, 1589). [No VD16 Catalogue Number]

Anon., Witchcrafts, Strange and Wonderfull: Discovering the Damnable Practices of Seven Witches, against the lives of certaine noble personages, and others of this kingdome, as shall appeare in this lamentable history (London, 1635). [ESTC S92558]

Zwo erschreckliche und unerhörte Geschicht, welches in diesem XCCI Jar geschehen ist auff dem Brockersberg, dar sich ahn die hundert tausend Unholden oder Hexen versamlet (Cologne, 1596). [No VD16 Catalogue Number]

Anon., Zwo Hexenzeitung: Die Erste Auß dem Bisthumb Würtzburg, das ist Gründliche Erzehlung wie der Bishoff zu Würtzburg das Hexenbrennen im Franckenlande angefangen […] die Ander Auß dem Hertzogthumb Würtenburg wie der Hertzog zu Würtenberg in unterschiedlichen Stätten das Hexenbrennen auch angefangen (Tübingen, 1616). [VD17 23:626143G]

Anon., Zwo schröckliche Newe Zeitung, die erste ist von dem grewlichen Elendt, so sich in Aschenburck am Maynstrom von Hexen unnd Unholten geschehen (Giessen, 1612). [No VD17 Catalogue Number]

Anon., Zwo Warhafftige newe Zeitungen […] Die andere Zeitung: Eine abschewliche vnd zuuor nie erhoerte erschreckliche Zaubereyen Moerdt vnnd Diebereyen von Vater Mutter zweyen Soehnen vnd zweyen Toechtermaennern geschehen Welche in … Muenchen im Beyerland sind gefaenglich eingezogen worden (Basel, 1600). [VD16 ZV 21490]

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Galis, R., A Brief Treatise Containing the Most Strange and Horrible Cruelty of Elizabeth Stile alias Rockingham and her Confederates (London, 1579). [ESTC S124945]

Kuntz, H., Newe Zeitung von einer Erschrecklicher That, welche zu Dillingen, von einem Jhesuwider, vnd einer Hexen geschehen ist (Basel, 1579). [VD16 ZV 21532]

Kuntz, H., Newe Zeitung von einer Erschrecklicher That, welche zu Dillingen, von einem Jhesuwider, vnd einer Hexen geschehen ist (Urssel, 1580). [VD16 ZV 28968]

Lutz, R., Warhafftige Zeittung Von Gottlosen Hexen Auch Ketzerischen und Teuffels Weibern die zu Schettstadt deß H. Römischen Reichstadt in Elsaß auf den XXII. Herbstmonat deß 1570 Jahrs von wegen ihrer schändtlichen Teuffelsverpflichtung sind verbrennt (s.l, 1571). [VD16 L 7693]

Molitor, U., Von den Unholden oder Hexen (Augsburg, 1508). [VD16 M 5976]

Parker, M., The Tragedy of Doctor Lambe, / The great suposed Coniurer, who was wounded to death by Saylers / and other Lads, on Fryday the 14. of Iune, 1628. And dyed in the / Poultry Counter, neere Cheapside, on the Saturday morning following (London, 1628). [ESTC S126177]

Potts, T., The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster With the arraignement and triall of nineteene notorious witches (London, 16139). [ESTC S114979]

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[1] R. Hutton, The Witch: A History of Fear, From the Ancient Times to the Present (London, 2017), pp. 41 – 3.

[2] B. P. Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (4th edn., London, 2016), p. 23.

[3] L. Kounine, Imagining the Witch: Emotions, Gender, and Selfhood in Early Modern Germany (Oxford, 2018), p. 7.

[4] M. Gibson, Reading Witchcraft: Stories of Early English Witches (London, 1999), pp. 14 and 36 – 7.

[5] G. Warburton, ‘Gender, Supernatural Power, Agency and the Metamorphoses of the Familiar in Early Modern Pamphlet Accounts of English Witchcraft’, Parergon, 20/2 (2003), p. 118.; Kounine, Imagining the Witch, p. 14.

[6] H. C. Erik Midelfort, ‘Heartland of the Witchcraze: Central and Northern Europe’, History Today, 31/2 (1981), p. 27.;  J. Dillinger, ‘Germany – “The Mother of the Witches”, in J. Dillinger (ed.), The Routledge History of Witchcraft (London, 2020), p. 94.

[7] J. Sharpe, ‘Witch Hunts in Britain’, in J. Dillinger (ed.), The Routledge History of Witchcraft (London, 2020), p. 145.

[8] B. Rosen, Witchcraft (London, 1969), p. 19.; Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, pp. 8 and 243.

[9] A. A. O Lynn, ‘Ghosts of War and Spirits of Place: Spectral Belief in Early Modern England and Protestant Germany’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Bristol, 2018), p. 5.

[10] A. Pettegree, The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself (London, 2014), p. 2.; H. Droste, ‘How Public Was the News in Early Modern Times?’, in H. Droste & K. Salmi-Niklander (eds.), Handwritten Newspapers: An Alternative Medium during the Early Modern and Modern Periods (Helsinki, 2019), p. 29.

[11] See, for example: W. W., A True and Just Recorde, of the Information, Examination and Confession of all the Witches, taken at S. Ofes in the countie of Essex (London, 1582).; A Most Certain, Strange, and True Discovery of a Witch (London, 1643).; Warhafftige vnnd Erschreckliche Thatten vnd Handlungen der Lxiij. Hexen vnnd Unholden, so zu Wisenstaig, mit dem Brandt gericht worden seindt (Launigen, 1563).; Warhaffte und Glaubwirdige Zeytung. Wie man in diesem 1582. Jahr wol in die 200. und fuenff und zweyntzig Weiber verbrant hat (Strasbourg, 1582).

[12] S. Clark, Women and Crime in the Street Literature of Early Modern England (London, 2003), p. 35.

[13] W. Behringer, ‘Witchcraft and the Media’, in M. E. Plummer & R. B. Barnes (eds.), Ideas and Cultural Margins in Early Modern Germany: Essays in Honor of H. C. Erik Midelfort (Farnham, 2009), pp. 217 –36.; H. Sipek, ‘Newe Zeitung. Marginalen zur Flugblatt – und Flugschriftenpublizistik sowie zur Druckgraphik im Kontext der Hexenverfolgung’, in S. Lorenz (ed.), Hexen und Hexenverfolgung im Deutschen Südwesten. Aufsatzband (Ostfildern, 1994), pp. 85 – 92.; U. Krah, ‘Fiktionalität und Faktizität in frühneuzeitlichen Kleinschriften (Einblattdrucke und Flugschriften)’, in K. Moeller & B. Schmidt (eds.), Realität und Mythos: Hexenverfolgung und Rezeptionsgeschichte (Hamburg, 2003), pp. 77 – 87.; R. Walinksi-Kiehl, ‘Pamphlets, Propaganda and Witch-Hunting in Germany, 1560 – 1630’, Reformation, 6/1 (2002), pp. 49 – 74.; A. Warfield, ‘The Media Representation of the Crime of Witchcraft in Early Modern Germany: An Investigation of Non-Periodical Newsheets and Pamphlets, 1533-1669’ (unpublished doctoral dissertation, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, 2013).

[14] Rosen, Witchcraft.; Gibson, Reading Witchcraft.; C. Suhr, ‘Portrayal of Attitude in Early Modern English Witchcraft Pamphlets’, Studia Neophilogica, 84/1 (2012), pp. 130 – 42.; J. Sharpe, ‘English Witchcraft Pamphlets and the Popular Demonic’, in J. Goodare, R. Voltmer and L. Helene Willumsen (eds.), Demonology and Witch-Hunting in Early Modern Europe (London, 2020), pp. 127 – 47.; C. Millar, Witchcraft, the Devil, and Emotions in Early Modern England (London, 2017).

[15] C. Millar, ‘Diabolic Men: Reintegrating Male Witches into English Witchcraft’, The Seventeenth Century (2020), pp. 1 – 21.

[16] J. Dillinger, ‘Evil People’: A Comparative Study of Witch Hunts in Swabian Austria and the Electorate of Trier, trans. L. Stokes (Charlottesville, VA, 2009).; L. Stokes, Demons of Urban Reform: Early European Witch Trials and Criminal Justice, 1430–1530 (Basingstoke, 2011).; L. N. Kallestrup, Agents of Witchcraft in Early Modern Italy and Denmark (Basingstoke, 2015).

[17] M. Gaskill, ‘Witchcraft Trials in England’, in B. P. Levack (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America (Oxford, 2013), p. 289.; T. Robisheaux, ‘The German Witch Trials’ in B. P. Levack (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America (Oxford, 2013), p. 196.

[18] J. Kamp, Crime, Gender and Social Control in Early Modern Frankfurt am Main (Leiden 2019), p. 6.

[19] G. Walker & J. Kermode, ‘Introduction’ in J. Kermode & G. Walker (eds.), Women, Crime and the Courts in Early Modern England (London, 1994), p. 4.

[20] Clark, Women and Crime, p. 34.

[21] Sharpe, ‘Witch Hunts in Britain’, p. 151.

[22] Dillinger, ‘Germany – “The Mother of the Witches”’, p. 97.

[23] A. Dworkin, Woman Hating (New York, NY, 1974), pp. 125 – 50. M. Daly, Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, with a New Introduction by the author (London, 1991), pp. 179 – 85.

[24] A. Rowlands, ‘Witchcraft and Gender in Early Modern Europe’, in B. P. Levack (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America (Oxford, 2013), pp. 451 -3. L. Apps and A. C. Gow, Gender at the Stake: Male Witches in Early Modern Europe (Manchester, 2003), p. 26.

[25] For a historiographical overview, see: Rowlands, ‘Witchcraft and Gender in Early Modern Europe’.

[26] See, for example: Apps and Gow, Gender at the Stake. and R. Schulte, Man as Witch: Male Witches in Central Europe, trans. L. Froome-Döring (Basingstoke, 2009).

[27] Kounine, Imagining the Witch, p. 90.

[28] J. Goodare, The European Witch-Hunt (London, 2016), p. 310.

[29] The Examination and Confession of Certaine Wytches at Chensforde in the Countie of Essex (London, 1566), sigs. Aiiiv, [Avir] and Biiir.

[30] A Rehearsall Both Straung and True, of Hainous and Horrible Actes Committed by Elizabeth Stile alias Rockingham, Mother Dutten, Mother Devell, Mother Margaret, Fower Notorious Witches apprehended at Winsore in the Countie of Berks. (London, 1579), sigs. Ar and Avr.

[31] Warhafftige Newe Zeittung auß dem Land Westvahlen von der Stat Ossenbruck wie man da hat auff einen Tag 133. Unholden verbrendt (s.l., 1588), (unpaginated – p. 1.).

[32] U. Molitor, Von den Uholden oder Hexen (Augsburg, 1508), sig. [Bvv].

[33] R. Lutz, Warhafftige Zeittung Von Gottlosen Hexen Auch Ketzerischen und Teuffels Weibern die zu Schettstadt deß H. Römischen Reichstadt in Elsaß auf den XXII. Herbstmonat deß 1570 Jahrs von wegen ihrer schändtlichen Teuffelsverpflichtung sind verbrennt (s.l, 1571), sig. Ar.

[34] C. Zika, The Appearance of Witchcraft: Print and Visual Culture in Sixteenth-Century Europe (London, 2007), pp. 12 – 26.

[35] ‘nach dem alten Sprichwort/ Was der Teuffel nicht kan zu wege bringen/ das bringt er durch ein alt Weib zu wege’: H. Kuntz, Newe Zeitung von einer Erschrecklicher That, welche zu Dillingen, von einem Jhesuwider, vnd einer Hexen geschehen ist (Basel, 1579), sig. Aiiir.  H. Kuntz, Newe Zeitung von einer Erschrecklicher That, welche zu Dillingen, von einem Jhesuwider, vnd einer Hexen geschehen ist (Urssel, 1580), sig. Aiiir. Newe Zeitung aus Berneburgk Schrecklich und abschewlich zu hoeren und zu lesen von dreyen alten Teuffels Bulerin Hexin oder Zauberinnen (s.l., 1580), sig. Br.

[36] A Rehearsall Both Straung and True, sig. Ar.

[37] A Rehearsall Both Straung and True, sig. Avv.

[38] A Rehearsall Both Straung and True, sig. [Aviv].

[39] R. Galis, A Brief Treatise Containing the Most Strange and Horrible Cruelty of Elizabeth Stile alias Rockingham and her Confederates (London, 1579), sig. [Ciiiv].

[40] Galis, A Brief Treatise, sig. Dv.

[41] Galis, A Brief Treatise, sigs. Ciiv and [Diiiir].

[42] Warhaffte und Glaubwirdige Zeytung. Wie man in diesem 1582. Jahr wol in die 200. und fuenff und zweyntzig Weiber verbrant hat (Strasbourg, 1582).

[43] See, for example: Ein New kläglich Lied von dem grossen Schaden der Unholden So sie in Westphalen zu Aschenbruegk und andern Orten begangen haben in dem jetztwerenden 1583. Jar (Wesel, 1583) and Ein Warhafftige Zeitung Von etlichen Hexen oder Unholden welche man kürtzlich im Stifft Mäntz zu Ascheburg, Dipperck,Ostum, Rönßhoffen auch andern Orten verbrendt was Ubels sie gestifft und bekandt haben (Frankfurt am Main, 1603).

[44] ‘man hat auch vier und viertzig Weiber und drey Man gefangen/ und den 24. Oct: zu Mimpelgart verbant’: Warhaffte und Glaubwirdige Zeytung, sig. [Aiiir].

[45] Warhaffte und Glaubwirdige Zeytung, sig. [Aiiiir].

[46] ‘dem leydigen Sathan solche gewalt/uber den schwachen Werckzeug weibliches Geschlecht’: Warhaffte und Glaubwirdige Zeytung, sig. [Aiiiir].

[47] See, for example: T. Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster With the arraignement and triall of nineteene notorious witches (London, 1613).;   Witchcrafts, Strange and Wonderfull: Discovering the Damnable Practices of Seven Witches, against the lives of certaine noble personages, and others of this kingdome, as shall appeare in this lamentable history (London, 1635).; Zwo erschreckliche und unerhörte Geschicht, welches in diesem XCCI Jar geschehen ist auff dem Brockersberg, dar sich ahn die hundert tausend Unholden oder Hexen versamlet (Cologne, 1596).

[48] Warfield, ‘The Media Representation of the Crime of Witchcraft’, p. 265.

[49] A. Pettegree, The Invention of News, p. 92.

[50] T. Watt, Cheap Print and Popular Piety, 1550 – 1640 (Cambridge, 1991), p. 3.; J. Wiltenburg, Disorderly Women and Female Power in the Street Literature of Early Modern England and Germany (London, 1992), p. 38.

[51] Pettegree, The Invention of News, p. 93. J. Wiltenburg, ‘True Crime: The Origins of Modern Sensationalism’, American Historical Review, 109/5 (2004), p. 1382.

[52] Pettegree, The Invention of News, p. 94.

[53] The Life and Death of Lewis Gaufredy (London, 1612), sigs. A2r – A4v.

[54] Zwo Warhafftige newe Zeitungen […] Die andere Zeitung: Eine abschewliche vnd zuuor nie erhoerte erschreckliche Zaubereyen Moerdt vnnd Diebereyen von Vater Mutter zweyen Soehnen vnd zweyen Toechtermaennern geschehen Welche in … Muenchen im Beyerland sind gefaenglich eingezogen worden. (Basel, 1600), sigs. Aiiv – Aiiiiv.

[55] ANNO MDLXXXVI. Ist bey Bedbur ein Zauberer geweßen STVMP PETER genant, welcher sich in einen WOLF verwandelt (s.l., 1589).; Warhafftige und wunderbarliche Newe Zeitung von einem Bawren der sich durch Zauberey deß Tags siben stunnd zu einem Wolff verwandelt hat (Augsburg, 1589).; Warhafftige und Wunderbarlich Newe Zeitung von einem Pauren der sich durch Zauberey des tags siben stund zu ainen Wolff verwandelt hat (Nuremberg, 1589).; Warhafftige und erschreckliche Beschreibung, von einem Zauberer (Stupe Peter genandt) der sich zu einem Wehrwolff hat können machen (Cologne, 1589).; J. van Gehlen, Warachtighe ende verschrickelijcke beschryvinge van vele toovenaers, hoe ende waerom men die verbrandt heeft in 1589 (Antwerp, 1589); En forskreckelig oc sand bescriffuelse om mange troldfolck som ere forbrends for deris misgierninger skyld fra det aar 1589 (Copenhagen, 1591).; A True Discourse. Declaring the Damnable Life and Death of one Stubbe Peeter, a Most Wicked Sorcerer (London, 1590).

[56] A. Warfield, ‘Witchcraft and the Early Modern Media’, in J. Dillinger (ed.), The Routledge History of Witchcraft (London, 2020), p. 215.

[57] S. K. Barker, ‘International News Pamphlets’, in A Kesson and E. Smith (eds.), The Elizabethan Top Ten: Defining Print Popularity in Early Modern England (Ashgate, 2016), pp. 152 – 4.

[58] ANNO MDLXXXVI. Ist bey Bedbur ein Zauberer geweßen STVMP PETER genant.; Warhafftige und wunderbarliche Newe Zeitung von einem Bawren.; Warhafftige und Wunderbarlich Newe Zeitung von einem Pauren .; Warhafftige und erschreckliche Beschreibung, von einem Zauberer .; A True Discourse. Declaring the Damnable Life and Death of one Stubbe Peeter.

[59] ‘unsäglich schandt unndt Laster’: ANNO MDLXXXVI. Ist bey Bedbur ein Zauberer geweßen STVMP PETER genant.; ‘schröcklich ist es zu hören an’: Warhafftige vnd wunderbarliche Newe Zeitung von einem Bawren.; A True Discourse. Declaring the Damnable Life and Death of one Stubbe Peeter, p. 12.

[60] ANNO MDLXXXVI. Ist bey Bedbur ein Zauberer geweßen STVMP PETER genant.

[61] A True Discourse. Declaring the Damnable Life and Death of one Stubbe Peeter, p. 1.

[62] Barker, ‘International News Pamphlets’, p. 150.

[63] Warfield, ‘Witchcraft and the Early Modern Media’, p. 215.

[64] Warhafftige und erschreckliche Beschreibung, von einem Zauberer, sigs. Aiv – Aiir.

[65] A True Discourse. Declaring the Damnable Life and Death of one Stubbe Peeter, pp. 1, 7, and 10.

[66] M. Parker, The Tragedy of Doctor Lambe, / The great suposed Coniurer, who was wounded to death by Saylers / and other Lads, on Fryday the 14. of Iune, 1628. And dyed in the / Poultry Counter, neere Cheapside, on the Saturday morning following (London, 1628).

[67] Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, sig. Br.

[68] G. B, A most wicked worke of a wretched witch (the like whereof none can record these manie yeeres in England.) (London, 1592).

[69] See, for example: W. W., A True and Just Recorde. and The Examination, Confession, Triall, and Execution, of Joane Williford, Joan Cariden, and Jane Hott: who were executed at Feversham in Kent, for being witches, on Munday the 29 of September, 1645 (London, 1645).

[70] Rowlands, ‘Witchcraft and Gender in Early Modern Europe’, p. 466. J. Dillinger, Hexen und Magie (2nd edn., Frankfurt am Main, 2018), p. 126.

[71] K. Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Belief in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England (London, 1971), p. 671.; L. Roper, Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany (London, 2004), p. 161.

[72] Newe Zeitung aus Berneburgk, sig. Aiir.

[73] Kuntz, Newe Zeitung von einer Erschrecklicher That, sig. Av.

[74] A Rehearsall Both Straung and True, sig. Aiiiir.

[75] The Apprehension and Confession of Three Notorious Witches. Arreigned and by Justice condemned and executed at Chelmes-forde, in the Countye of Essex, the 5. day of Iulye, last past. 1589 (London, 1589), sig. Aiiir.

[76] R. M. Toivo, ‘Witchcraft and Gender’, in J. Dillinger (ed.), The Routledge History of Witchcraft (London, 2020), p. 225.

[77] The Witches of Northamptonshire Agnes Browne. Ioane Vaughan. Arthur Bill. Hellen Ienkenson. Mary Barber. (London, 1612), sig. A3r.

[78] The Witches of Northamptonshire, sig. B2r and Cv.

[79] See, for example: Warhafftige Newe Zeittung auß dem Land Westvahlen von der Stat Ossenbruck.

[80] See, for example: Warhafftige und erschreckliche Beschreibung, von einem Zauberer (Stupe Peter genandt), sig. Aiiir.; Erweyterte Unholden-Zeitung: Kurze Erzelung wie viel der Unholden hin vnd wider/ sonderlich inn dem Obern Teutschland/ gefängklich eingezogen (Ulm, 1590), sig. [Aiiiir].; Zwo schröckliche Newe Zeitung, die erste ist von dem grewlichen Elendt, so sich in Aschenburck am Maynstrom von Hexen unnd Unholten geschehen (Giessen, 1612).  Sig. Aiir.

[81]  Robisheaux, ‘The German Witch Trials’, p. 187.

[82] H. C. Erik Midelfort, Witch Hunting in Southwestern Germany 1562 – 1684: The Social and Intellectual Foundations (Stanford, CA, 1972), pp. 178 – 85.  

[83] ‘Manns und Weibspersonen/ jung und alt/ arm und reich/ so der Hexenkunst und Zauberey erfahren/ hinrichten und verbrennen’: Zwo Hexenzeitung: Die Erste Auß dem Bisthumb Würtzburg, das ist Gründliche Erzehlung wie der Bishoff zu Würtzburg das Hexenbrennen im Franckenlande angefangen […] die Ander Auß dem Hertzogthumb Würtenburg wie der Hertzog zu Würtenberg in unterschiedlichen Stätten das Hexenbrennen auch angefangen (Tübingen, 1616), (unpaginated – p.1).

[84] ‘Teglich mehr eingefangen viel/ kein ansehen der Person gilt/ Reich/ Arm/ Schön/ Herr und Frawen’: Gewisser Bericht des Truten und Hexenbrennens Bambergischen Gebiets wie lang es gewehrt: Was für ubels ihrer Außsag nach sie viel Jahr hero an Menschen, Vihe, Früchten und andern verübet was allbereit verbrennet (Schmalkalden, 1628), sigs. Aiiiv and [Aiiiir].

[85] Ein Warhafftige und gründliche Beschreibung Auß dem Bistumb Würtz und Bamberg Deßgleichen von dem ganzen Fränkischen Kraiß wie man alda so vil hexen Mann vnd Weibspersohnen verbrennen laßt (S.l., 1627), sig. Av.

[86] Ein Warhafftige und gründliche Beschreibung Auß dem Bistumb Würtz und Bamberg, sig. Av.

[87] M. Gaskill, ‘Witchcraft and Evidence in early modern England’, Past and Present, 198 (2008), pp. 46 – 54.

[88] J. Sharpe, Instruments of Darkness: Witchcraft in England 1550 – 1750 (London, 1996), pp. 128 – 9.

[89] Millar, ‘Diabolic Men’, p. 8.

[90] A Most Certain, Strange, and true Discovery of a Witch, sig. A2r.

[91] Signes and Wonders from Heaven (London, 1645), pp. 2 – 5.

[92] Signes and Wonders from Heaven, p. 3.

[93] A. Rowlands, ‘Not the Usual Suspects? Male, Witchcraft, and Masculinities in Early Modern Europe’, in A. Rowlands (ed.), Witchcraft and Masculinities in Early Modern Europe (Basingstoke, 2009), p. 6.

[94] J. Sharpe, ‘The Devil in East Anglia: the Matthew Hopkins Trials Reconsidered’, in J. Barry, M. Hester, and G. Roberts (eds.), Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe: Studies in Culture and Belief (Cambridge, 1996), p. 249. Millar, Witchcraft, the Devil, and Emotions, p. 8.

[95] The Examination of John Walsh  […] upon certayn interrogatories touchyng wytchcrafte and sorcerye (London, 1566), sig. Aiir.

[96] Des allerdurchleuchtigsten, groszmechtigsten vnüberwindlichsten Keyser Karls des Fünfften, vnd des Heyligen Römischen Reichs peinlich Gerichts ordnung:auff den Reichßtägen zu Augspurg vnd Regenspurg, in jaren dreissig vnd zwey vnd dreissig gehalten, auffgericht vnd beschlossen (Frankfurt am Main, 1562), sig. Dr.

[97] Augusten Hertzogen zu Sachsen … Verordnungen und Constitutionen des rechtlichen Process (Dresden, 1572), sig. ff. 71v – 72r.

[98] ‘An Act agaynst conjuracons inchantmentes and Witchecraftes (5 Eliz I, c. 16)’, in Statutes of the Realm, vol. 4 part I (London, 1819), p. 446.

[99] ‘An Act agaynst conjuracons inchantmentes and Witchecraftes (5 Eliz I, c. 16)’, in Statutes of the Realm, vol. 4 part I (London, 1819), p. 446.

[100] ‘An Act against Conjuration Witchcrafte and dealing with evill and wicked Spirits (1 Jac. I, c. 12)’, in Statutes of the Realm, vol. 4 part II (London, 1819), p. 1028.

[101] ‘An Act against Conjuration Witchcrafte and dealing with evill and wicked Spirits (1 Jac. I, c. 12)’, in Statutes of the Realm, vol. 4 part II (London, 1819), p. 1028.

[102] C. Holmes, ‘Popular Culture? Witches, Magistrates, and Divines in Early Modern England’, in S. L. Kaplan (ed.), Understanding Popular Culture: Europe from the Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century (New York, NY, 1984), p. 87.

[103] Sharpe, ‘English witchcraft pamphlets and the popular demonic’, pp. 127 – 8.

[104] Millar, ‘Diabolic Men’, p. 14. Millar, Witchcraft, the Devil, and Emotions in Early Modern England, p. 48.

[105] W. W., A True and Just Recorde, sigs. A3r – v.

[106] W. W., A True and Just Recorde, sig. A3v.

[107] M. Gibson, ‘French demonology in an English village: the St Osyth experiment of 1582’, in J. Goodare, R. Voltmer & L. Helene Willumsen (eds.), Demonology and witch-hunting in early modern Europe (London, 2020), p. 108.

[108] The Witches of Northamptonshire, sig. A4v.

[109] Lutz, Von Gottlosen Hexen, sig. Av.

[110] The Wonderful Discouerie of the Witchcrafts of Margaret and Phillip Flower, daughters of Ioan Flower neere Bever Castle (London, 1619), sig. Bv.

[111] The Examination and Confession of Certaine Wytches at Chensforde.

[112] The Examination and Confession of Certaine Wytches at Chensforde, sigs. [Aviiv] – [Biiiir].

[113] Erweyterte Unholden-Zeitung, sig. A2r – v.

[114] Dillinger, ‘Germany – “the Mother of the Witches”’, p. 98.

[115] Rowlands, ‘Not the Usual Suspects’, p. 19.

[116] Wiltenburg, ‘True Crime: the Origins of Modern Sensationalism’, p. 1383.

[117] Wiltenburg, ‘True Crime’, p. 1385.; J. E., Slotkin, Sinister Aesthetics: The Appeal of Evil in Early Modern English Literature (Cham, 2017), p. 132.; Krah, ‘Fiktionalität und Faktizität’, p. 77.

[118] Watt, Cheap Print and Popular Piety, p. 69.; Wiltenburg, ‘True Crime’, pp. 1384 -5 .

[119] Ein Warhafftige vnd gründtliche BeschreibungAuß dem Bistum Würtz und Bamberg, sig. Aiiv.

[120] ‘das schier alle Stödt/ Märckt/ und Dörffer/im gantzen Teutschland […] desselbigen unzifers und Teuffelsdienern voll seindt’: Erweyterte Unholden-Zeitung, sig. A2r.

[121] G. B, A most wicked worke of a wretched witch, sig. Av.

The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party

Author Biography

Alex Riggs is an MA History student at the University of Nottingham. He will be starting a Midlands4Cities funded PhD there in September, studying Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson’s presidential primary campaigns.

Book Review: ‘The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party’ by John Nichols

In recent years, the American left has experienced significant growth in its prominence on the national political stage. Bernie Sanders has twice finished second in Democratic Party presidential primaries, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become highly influential and the Democratic Socialists of America have expanded from around 6,000 members in 2015 to 66,000 in 2020.[1] In The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party, journalist and author John Nichols draws upon original archival research and oral history gathered throughout his journalistic career to argue that rather than an unprecedented phenomenon, the contemporary American left can call upon a significant historical tradition.

Alongside other recent historical works by journalists showcasing aspects of the Democratic Party’s left, including Ryan Grim’s exploration of the movement’s evolution from Jesse Jackson’s 1988 Presidential campaign to the present, and Jon Ward’s account of the 1980 Presidential Primaries between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy, Nichols pinpoints the pivotal place of Henry Wallace in this history.[2] A Republican farmer turned ardent New Dealer and ally of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Wallace served as FDR’s Vice President in his third term.[3] With the President’s health ailing as he sought a fourth term in 1944, Southern segregationists and industrialists organised to replace Wallace as the Vice-Presidential nominee, winning a tightly contested vote to install Harry Truman, who would take office upon Roosevelt’s death in 1945.[4] For Nichols, this is the decisive moment in altering the Democrats’ ideological trajectory, bringing about an intellectual shift away from the politics of the New Deal and towards one which embraced a form of managerialism that precluded transformational change.[5]

The opening chapters focus on Wallace’s time as Vice-President, and Nichols effectively situates his politics within the Second World War context. Just as social democrats in Britain, India and Scandinavia looked to build an egalitarian society out of the destruction of the conflict, in an American context Henry Wallace championed similar causes, looking to build on the foundations laid by the Atlantic Charter, ‘Four Freedoms’, and Economic Bill of Rights to create a peaceful and just international settlement.[6] This context also meant a focus on the reasons for Fascism’s ascent in the 1930s, emphasising the need for economic security while simultaneously rooting out racism and xenophobia. Fighting ‘American fascism’ became a key part of Wallace’s speeches in the latter part of his Vice Presidency.[7] Nichols also demonstrates the resistance of the status quo to this agenda, including Winston Churchill’s anger at Wallace’s denunciations of imperialism and segregationists’ fury over his steadfast support for civil rights.[8] This leads Nichols to the conclusion that rather than failing on its own merits, it took a deliberate effort of groups whose power would have been diminished by Wallace’s agenda to undermine the ascendency of the New Deal.

Wallace faded into obscurity after his disastrous presidential run in 1948, so the remaining chapters of the book chronicle the Democratic left’s trajectory to the present. This begins in the 1950s, highlighting how the Republican administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower outflanked the Democrats in its progressivism on civil rights, economics, and foreign policy, most famously with its denunciation of the ‘Military-Industrial Complex’.[9] The analysis of the era’s presidents poses questions of Nichols’ key thesis, namely that Wallace’s removal from the Vice-Presidency constituted the end of the New Deal. If Eisenhower kept a Keynesian economic settlement, gradualist Civil Rights agenda and challenged confrontational foreign policy stances, can the New Deal really have ended in 1944? The book then skips over John F. Kennedy’s presidency, before briefly discussing the Johnson administration and its advances in Civil Rights legislation before being bogged down by the Vietnam War.[10] Given the complicated legacies of these Democratic presidents, having enacted important advancements in Civil Rights, the welfare state, and healthcare, but also overseeing the brutality of Vietnam, a discussion of how these figures related to the left and how they should feature in its history remains a significant omission.

The significance of grassroots groups is then highlighted, including Students for a Democratic Society, a key organisation in representing emerging student radicalism, whose alliance with civil rights, anti-war, and feminist groups would give birth to the ‘New Politics’ that increasingly defined the Democratic left from the late 1960s onwards.[11] Both Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy made use of these sentiments in the 1968 primaries, before George McGovern harnessed their support to gain the 1972 Presidential nomination.[12] One of the most effective parts of the book comes in its reading of the 1970s, showing how this decade, often pinpointed by historians as a battleground for the future of the nation, also affected the Democratic Party.[13] For Nichols, the 1970s represented another missed opportunity for the Party, as they rejected the chance to use this new base to counter increasingly organised right-wing interest groups and instead doubled down on the managerial politics that saw Democrats lose their position as the dominant party in the 1970s.[14] This is also shown through the role of Michael Harrington, a socialist activist who saw in the emergence of the ‘New Politics’ an opportunity to make the Democrats a vehicle for policies such as full employment and national health insurance. These policies became part of the 1976 Party platform, before significantly influencing Ted Kennedy’s 1980 bid for the presidential nomination.[15]

These battles over Party direction would continue into the 1980s as the Reagan presidency encouraged centrist Democrats further away from liberalism, whilst organisations like the Democratic Leadership Council emerged to ensure the Party remained orientated to the political centre. In this decade, Jesse Jackson, a civil rights activist and confidant of Martin Luther King, would become the standard bearer of this cause, running for the presidency in 1984 and 1988 on a platform that sought to represent the working-class constituencies most affected by the changes of Reaganism.[16] Though his supposed general election shortcomings were a key reason for his defeats in the primaries, Nichols interestingly highlights the significance of low turnout in urban areas and amongst young voters for the Democratic defeat of 1988, suggesting Jackson’s ability to galvanise these groups had potential as an alternative to centrism.[17] Despite this promise, however, the Democrats continued to compromise with right-wing policies on areas including criminal justice and financial deregulation during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Despite the initial liberal promise of the Obama campaign, a shift towards a transformational politics was not forthcoming, forcing the party to rely on Presidential charisma for electoral success, a tactic that obliterated its strength at the local level.[18] The book ends, however, on a hopeful note by highlighting the contemporary success of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a sign of the left’s strength, with these youth-powered campaigns providing optimism for future fulfilment of Wallace’s ideals.[19]

Nichols’ work is an important one, highlighting the possibility of alternative directions in post-war American politics and providing a welcome antidote to the histories of the Democrats that portray its left as an inconvenience, contributing nothing other than defeat.[20] However, Nichols’ role as an activist as well as an author means there are limits to its uses. As Ilhan Omar writes on the blurb, this is, ‘more than a history book- this is an examination of what progressives must do to retake our democracy’, showing how Nichols seeks to give today’s left a sense of purpose and historical grounding in its common cause with past political actors. Therefore, Nichols places greater emphasis on continuity in charting the history of this movement, highlighting the consistencies in political aims across time, to give a sense of tradition and legitimacy to the cause described. For instance, he describes Tom Hayden’s 1978 Senate manifesto as having, ‘anticipated the progressive politics of Ro Khanna, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the generation of leaders that would come to the fore in the late 2010s’.[21] Whilst it is correct to point out the continuities across these different contexts, Nichols’ approach obscures the variations that also exist across time. In particular, this overestimates the degree of separation between the Democratic left and the wider political environment.

Therefore, the ‘neo-consensus’ school of contemporary American political History, which minimises the divides of party, ideology and region in favour of highlighting areas of agreement across the spectrum, including convergence in criminal justice and neoliberalism, has use for building on Nichols’ work.[22] Although this school has mostly focused on areas of consensus across partisan lines, its theories could be applied by historians to the study of the Democratic left. This is applicable to the New Deal itself, which faced criticism for being insufficiently bold in its economic reforms from the likes of Huey Long and incorporated ideas that challenge its status as the height of progressivism. This included the facilitation of the conservative goal of repressing ‘subversives’ through the development of the FBI.[23] With regard to later periods, Geismer highlights how George McGovern played an instrumental role in popularising a political economy based around the high-tech sector, a cause commonly identified as instrumental to the agenda of ‘neoliberal’ politics in the 1980s.[24] Moreover, the Kennedy and Jackson campaigns were not inoculated from these developments. Kennedy was keen to highlight his role as a deregulator of the airline and trucking industries during his campaign, whilst Jackson’s campaign included a strong anti-drug message similar to the ‘Just Say No’ message of the Reagan administration.[25]

The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party, therefore, represents an important historiographical development by providing a more balanced history of the Democratic left, highlighting the left’s important intellectual contribution and exploring alternative directions in post-war American politics. Given that all historical works are influenced by the perspectives of their authors, this book should not be dismissed as that of an ideologue. Its limits, however, should be recognised. More work needs to be done to layout the ideological nuances of this important movement in American political history, to show how it adapted to the myriad of contexts that the post-war United States brought about, but Nichols provides a good starting point.

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Notes

[1]             D. Henwood, ‘The Socialist Network’, The New Republic, 250/6 (June 2019), p.15; E. Godfrey, ‘Thousands of Americans Have Become Socialists Since March’, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/05/dsa-growing-during-coronavirus/611599/accessed 04/08/2020.

[2]             R. Grim, We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to AOC, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement (Washington D.C., 2019); J. Ward, Camelot’s End: Kennedy vs. Carter and the Fight that Broke the Democratic Party (New York, 2019).

[3]             J. Nichols, The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party (London, 2020), pp. xi-xii.

[4]             Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, pp. 83-84

[5]             Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, pp. xiv-xv.

[6]             Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, pp. 4, 21-22.

[7]             Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, pp. 60-61.

[8]             Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, pp. 68-69.

[9]             Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, pp. 146, 152-53.

[10]           Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, pp. 155-56.

[11]           Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, pp. 170-71.

[12]           Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, pp. 160-61, 167, 171-73.

[13]           E. Berkowitz, Something Happened: A Political Cultural Overview of the Seventies (New York, 2006), p.1; T. Borstelmann, The 1970s: A New Global History from Civil Rights to Economic Inequality (Princeton, 2011), p.3.

[14]           Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, pp. 169-71.

[15]           Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, pp.183, 186-87.

[16]           Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, pp.198-99.

[17]           Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, p.200.

[18]           Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, pp.203,2 07-08, 215-16.

[19]           Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, pp.236-38.

[20]           R. Radosh, Divided they Fell: The Demise of the Democratic Party, 1964-1996 (New York, 1996), pp. x-xi, xiii.

[21]           Nichols, The Fight for the Soul, p.193.

[22]           B. Schulman, ‘Post-1968 U.S. History: Neo-Consensus History for the Age of Polarisation’, Reviews in American History, 47/3 (2019), pp.482-83.

[23]           ‘Huey Long’s Senate Speeches’,https://www.ssa.gov/history/longsen.html, accessed 09/09/20; K. O’Reilly, ‘A New Deal for the FBI: The Roosevelt Administration, Crime Control and National Security’, Journal of American History, 69/3 (1982), pp.638-39.

[24]           L. Geismer, Don’t Blame Us: Suburban Liberals and the Transformation of the Democratic Party (Princeton, 2015), pp.164-65.

[25]           N. Birnbaum, ‘How Much of the Way with E.M.K.?’, The Nation, December 22, 1979, p.649; ‘Jackson Announcement’, https://www.c-span.org/video/?3311-1/jackson-announcement, accessed 10/07/20

Bibliography

Primary Sources

 

Birnbaum, N., ‘How Much of the Way with E.M.K.?’, The Nation, (December 22, 1979), pp.648-51.

 

Godfrey, E., ‘Thousands of Americans Have Become Socialists since March’, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/05/dsa-growing-during-coronavirus/611599/accessed 04/08/2020.

 

Geismer, L., ‘Jesse Jackson’s Political Revolution’, Jacobin, (Winter 2020), pp.103-06.

 

Henwood, D., ‘The Socialist Network’, The New Republic, (June 2019), pp.12-19.

‘Huey Long’s Senate Speeches’, https://www.ssa.gov/history/longsen.html, accessed 09/09/20.

 

‘Jackson Announcement’, https://www.c-span.org/video/?3311-1/jackson-announcement, accessed 10/07/20.

 

Secondary Sources

 

Berkowitz, E., Something Happened: A Cultural and Political Overview of the Seventies (New York, 2006).

 

Borstelmann, T., The 1970s: A New Global History from Civil Rights to Economic Inequality (Princeton, 2011).

 

Geismer, L., Don’t Blame Us: Suburban Liberals and the Transformation of the Democratic Party (Princeton, 2015).

 

Grim, R., We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to AOC, The End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement (Washington D.C., 2019).

 

Nichols, J., The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party (London, 2020).

 

O’Reilly, K., ‘A New Deal for the FBI: The Roosevelt Administration, Crime Control and National Security’, Journal of American History, 69/3 (1982), pp.638-658.

 

Radosh, R., Divided they Fell: The Demise of the Democratic Party, 1964-1996 (New York, 1996).

 

Rodgers, D., Age of Fracture (Cambridge, 2011).

 

Schiller, R., ‘The Curious Origins of Airline Deregulation: Economic Deregulation and the American Left’, Business History Review, 93/4 (2019), pp.729-53.

 

Schulman, B., ‘Post-1968 U.S. History: Neo-Consensus History for the Age of Polarisation’, Reviews in American History, 47/3 (2019), pp.479-99.

 

Ward, J., Camelot’s End: Kennedy vs. Carter and the Fight that Broke the Democratic Party (New York, 2019).

Book Review: ‘Greek Military Service in the Ancient Near East, 401-330 BCE’ by Jeffrey Rop

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Author Biography

Gillian Owen is a Masters Student studying Classics at the University of Nottingham. Gillian‘s interests cover a range periods and cultures centred around the Mediterranean. Her current dissertation focuses on the image of the sea in Etruscan burials.

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/gillian-owen

Twitter: @Gillianowen97

Book Review: ‘Greek Military Service in the Ancient Near East, 401-330 BCE’ by Jeffrey Rop

Gillian Owen

 

Jeffery Rop’s, ‘Greek Military Service in the Ancient Near East,’ questions several of the core theories around the use of Greek mercenaries in the 4th century, providing a critical analysis of ancient sources and modern scholarship. His book serves as a reply to several comprehensive accounts of Persian and Egyptian military history, such as Stephen Ruzicka’s, ‘Trouble in the West,’ and John Hyland’s, ‘Persian Interventions’, both of which serve as the inspiration for this book.  Rop’s core argument is a reconsideration of the ‘Greek thesis’ – a term coined by Pierre Briant, referring to the trend in modern scholarship to accept accounts of Greek military superiority.  Through a series of case studies, Rop challenges the ideas of Greek military superiority presented by the Greek thesis; offering alternative reasons for the presence of Greek mercenaries in the Persian and Egyptian armies that go beyond the theory that they were selected as superior, hoplite troops. He uses this to contest the notion that the appearance of these troops was a sign of the decline in the Achaemenid Empire in the 4th century. Rop’s overarching argument addresses two core theories. First, the Greek thesis is a misconception created by the ancient sources, and perpetuated in modern scholarship. Second, Greek soldiers in foreign armies were not mercenaries, but were recruited through political alliances. Rop utilises a strong military history approach, uncommon in current scholarship, to reconsider the evidence through a break-down of battle narratives. This method provides new insights and alternative versions of events that may explain the appearance of Greek mercenaries in foreign armies.

 

The book is aimed at scholars, drawing heavily from modern debate.  However, Rop also intends it to be accessible to a more general audience.  Its intrinsic relation to modern debate and reconceptualization of certain events and ideas, requires at least, a basic understanding of the period, if not the modern scholarship. Therefore, the book is perhaps more suited to specialist Greek, Persian and Egyptian military and/or political historians; especially as the book is inciting a new take on this field. This should not deter undergraduates from approaching the book, as Rop’s clear presentation of his arguments and modern debate makes it accessible to those willing to fully engage with Rop’s arguments and analysis. Throughout the book, Rop supports his arguments with basic contexts and diagrams where necessary, enabling it to be read by a range of audiences and providing an inroad into modern discussions. The opening of the book provides general geographical maps and campaign routes, many of which would be familiar to those with a background in Greek military studies. The more poignant diagrams appear in the battle narratives, as Rop provides basic visual reconstructions of the battle formations. These provide essential context and understanding for the argument, particularly for readers unfamiliar with military history and battle sequences. Rop’s analysis of the ancient sources and the literary techniques that influenced their accounts are, overall, worth consideration for future works addressing Greco-Persian political and military relations as they provide new insights and methodology. Discussion of the existing academic literature at the beginning of each section clearly situates the book within modern scholarship and challenges the reader to reconsider existing interpretations of Greek military history. As such, it is perhaps best read alongside other relevant works – although Rop provides enough scholarly context for all his arguments to be understood as a standalone piece.

 

The introductory chapter provides the foundations to the rest of the book. Rop presents an account of contemporary historiography highlighting specific elements of scholarship that are addressed through the rest of the work. He also provides a background to his primary sources; outlines his key arguments and key terms; and explains his methodology in the chapter. The chapter is titled, ‘The Greek Thesis’, borrowing Briant’s term to describe the tendency of ancient and modern authors to attribute the presence of Greek soldiers in foreign armies as indicators of Greek military superiority.  This chapter explains the Greek Thesis, from its conception by the primary sources, through to modern scholarship. Rop establishes the existing arguments and justifies the need for his book.  Rop’s secondary argument, exploring political motivations for the hire of Greek mercenaries, is also established here.  This argument challenges the idea that the Achaemenid Empire was in decline, and is developed much more in chapters three and six. He argues that Persia had political influence in Greece and was not reliant on Greek military power. The two literary tropes that Rop draws on throughout his critique of the ancient sources – the dynamic subordinate and the tragic advisor – are defined in this chapter, as a reference for the later discussions.  Overall, the first chapter provides a solid basis for Rop to develop his own analyses in the subsequent chapters.

The second chapter, ‘The Battle of Cunaxa’, addresses the revolt of Cyrus the Younger, with the aid of the Greek contingent known as the Ten Thousand, against his brother King Artaxerxes II in 401BC.  It is the first of two chapters in the book that deeply analyse one source through one event.  In this chapter, Rop considers Xenophon’s account of the battle of Cunaxa, discussing the literary techniques and biases of Xenophon. Xenophon is the generally preferred account for Cunaxa, as sources for battle narratives can vary dramatically.  An example of this would be Xenophon’s and Diodorus’ account of the battle of Aegospotami, as they display remarkable differences; such as the way in which the Spartans attack the Athenian ships.  Rop presents a critical analysis of the source and battle tactics to argue that Xenophon created a false perception of the Greeks’ role in the battle. His analysis aims to combat two assumptions about the battle: one, that the Greeks were the best on the battlefield; secondly, that Cyrus ordered his Greeks to advance against the King in the centre. Rop develops a battle reconstruction to suggest that these ideas came about due to Xenophon’s narrative techniques, for example, his use of focalisation highlighted the achievement of the Greeks, creating the impression that the Greek contingent was more important than it was.

 

The third chapter, ‘Greece and the Rebellion of Cyrus the Younger’, continues the discussion of chapter two and addresses a potential hole in the argument. The previous chapter argued against Greek superiority as the motive for their inclusion in Cyrus’ army. Rop uses this chapter to suggest an alternative reason for their inclusion. He argues that Greek troops were more loyal than the Persians troops, contesting the argument that mercenaries were unreliable, as they were motivated by money. Rop develops the argument that Greek mercenaries were contracted through patron-client relationships, similar to the Greek idea of xenia. Similar ideas have been presented by Trundle as he discusses how ritualised friendship was common in mercenary relationships.  Rop, however, expands this beyond what has been considered previously. He regards the concept of xenia in a Greco-Persian context, exploring how the power difference created a form of patron-client relationship that differed from the Greek concept of xenia – which was between equals. He argues that Greek mercenaries were contracted through personal relations to powerful Persian figures, who could support their personal ambitions in return for military service. He uses this idea to explain the Greeks’ loyalty to Cyrus over the wealthier Artaxerxes, as their personal relations to Cyrus allowed him to offer different incentives.  His presentation of Cyrus’ army as a chain of patron relationships, and the political implications of the chapter, present a particularly interesting argument within the book and for the definition of a mercenary. It is something to be considered in future scholarship.

Chapter four takes a different approach than the rest of the chapters, as Rop discusses pairs of figures; exploring the use of the dynamic subordinate and tragic advisor trope. The dynamic subordinate relates to accounts where a subordinate, in these cases a Greek, out performs their superior – here a Persian or Egyptian commander. The Tragic advisor trope refers to a case when the commander ignores the advice of another and subsequently fails. The lack of event focus creates a slight disjoint between the sections, as discussions of the specific individuals rely on a solid understanding of events between 400-360 BC. This can be aided slightly by use of the timeline provided at the start of the book. Each subsection within the chapter works as a separate unit, highlighting a case where the dynamic subordinate, and/or the tragic advisor is present. As such, the chapter requires Rop’s preliminary conclusion, found at the end of the chapter, to draw all the arguments together.  The chapter considers five pairs: Conon and Pharnabazus, Chabrias and Acoris, Agesilaus and Tachos, Agesilaus and Nectanebos, and Iphicrates and Pharnabazus, the latter being the longest and most comprehensive. The discussions surrounding these pairings presents a convincing case for the use of the dynamic subordinate and tragic advisor as a cause for misconceptions over the superiority of Greek generals, but, suffers from a slight sense of repetition, as the same tropes are discussed across all five case studies. Rop’s analysis provides interesting breakdowns of individuals’ contributions, strategies, and the two tropes, but could have been supplemented by a slightly broader range of arguments, such as the value these individuals had in controlling their forces.  Rop suggests three conclusions for the chapter, with the argument against the superiority of the Greek generals being predominant. Rop’s other two conclusions; that Greek mercenaries were valued due to alliances, and that they were selected as specialist marines, are slightly overshadowed. It would have been interesting if Rop had made more of these conclusions in his individual pairs’ analysis, as it is not until the preliminary conclusion that their significance is strongly highlighted, although they are discussed throughout the chapter. Despite this slight criticism, the arguments covered in the chapter are presented well. Each pair is discussed thoroughly, and the preliminary conclusion highlights the key ideas while citing previous discussion in the chapter to support them.

 

Both chapter five and six consider single events. Chapter five discusses the revolt of Artabazus, while the sixth chapter considers the Persian conquest of Egypt through a critique of Diodorus. Rop uses these chapters to reinforce ideas that have been previously presented, displaying how Rop uses this book to effectively argue a couple of key theories, by exploring them in different situations. The revolt of Artabazus, a relatively minor part of Persian history, is discussed in chapter five as it strongly pertains to Rop’s critique of the Greek thesis, as it presents the only case of the threat of Greek mercenaries being officially recognised by a Persian king.  Through this chapter, Rop challenges the Greek thesis by questioning the validity of the mercenaries’ decree and the accuracy of the sources’ accounts.  The chapter highlights a key agenda of Rop’s book, as he uses the revolt of Artabazus to illustrate how easily modern scholarship accepts accounts that support the Greek thesis. Rop’s methodology in addressing this event, displays how an in-depth critique of the sources can produce different interpretations of events; something he wants contemporary scholars to do in regards to the Greek thesis. In contrast, chapter six uses one source to analyse one event. In his analysis of the event, Rop re-engages several of his previous arguments, such as the dynamic subordinate and tragic advisor trope, in a new context. His argument that the Greek mercenaries were valued as sailors and marines is discussed at length in this chapter. The chapter displays how Rop’s book is building an in-depth case for the reconsideration of a few key ideas, rather than an extensive exploration of a wide variety of events and theories.

 

The final two chapters discuss the appearance of Greek mercenaries in the Persian armies, opposing Macedonian conquest. Rop discusses the appearance of Greeks in the three main battles against Alexander the Great: Granicus River, Issus, and Gaugamela. Chapter Seven focuses in particular on the contributions of Memnon of Rhodes to the Persian army, arguing that he has a more modest role than the sources convey. The highlight of these two chapters is Rop’s battle narratives, as he presents a lucid summary of the strategies used in these three key battles. He supplements this with simple, yet effective, diagrams displaying the battle lines, providing key visual tools to outline the battles’ progress. Chapter eight’s primary value is Rop’s military analysis, as he uses it to counteract the idea that the Persians depended on Greek mercenaries. Rop suggests that the Greeks appear in the Persian armies as a way for them to unofficially oppose Alexander. He suggests that they required Persian aid, rather than the Persian generals being reliant on superior Greek forces. The arguments of these latter chapters, while still relevant and convincing, are perhaps less impactful on Rop’s overall discussion on the Greek thesis and political motivations for the hiring of Greek mercenaries. Unlike some of the previous chapters, the conclusions here do not pose vastly significant changes to the dynamic of Greco-Persian relations.

 

Rop’s work presents an in-depth analysis of the ancient sources and offers a new take on conventional theories in Greek and Near Eastern military history. Rop’s work deviates from the often-Greek centric narrative and manages to presents a concise and well-rounded picture of Greco-Persian and Egyptian military history, that does an impressive job of considering sub-context and dynamics obscured by the primarily Greek source base. Rop’s book manages to address a hole in contemporary scholarship highlighted by Gómez-Castro, who acknowledges historian’s strong reliance on their sources and their fear of speculative analysis.   Rop’s method of combining military history with several literary approaches is innovative and highlights how this type of speculative analysis can provide interesting and new interpretations. Throughout the book, Rop successfully highlights the need for a reconsideration of the Greek thesis and reinterpretations of Greek mercenary actions. Rop’s suggestion for the political implications of Greek mercenaries, particularly the idea of a patron-client relationship, presented an interesting take on Greco-Persian relationships that appears worth considering by future works on 4th century history.  Rop’s book has opened up a challenge to some of the more conventional ideas and it will be interesting to observe future academic dialogue raised in response to his critiques.

 

 

Bibliography

Bigwood, J. M., ‘The Ancient Accounts of the Battle of Cunaxa’, The American Journal of Philology 104(4) (1983), pp. 340-357.

Briant, P., From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire, Daniels, P. T. (trans.)(Indiana, 2002).

Gómez-Castro. D. ‘Ancient Greek Mercenaries: Facts, Theories and New Perspectives’, War & Society, 38(1) (2019), pp. 2-18.

Hyland, J., Persian Interventions: The Achaemenid Empire, Athens, and Sparta, 450-386 BCE (Baltimore, 2018).

Rop, J., Greek Military Service in the Ancient Near East, 401-330 BCE (New York, 2019).

Ruzicka, S., Trouble in the West: Egypt and the Persian Empire 525-332 (Oxford, 2012).

Strauss, B. ‘Aegospotami Reexamined’, The American Journal of Philology, 104 (1) (1983), pp. 24-35.

Trundle, M., Greek Mercenaries: From the Late Archaic Period to Alexander (London and New York, 2004).

 

 

Bad or Mad? Infanticide: Insanity and Morality in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Bad or Mad? Infanticide: Insanity and Morality in Nineteenth-Century Britain

PAIGE MATHIESON

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Introduction

Infanticidal mothers have been murdering their newly born offspring for hundreds of years. Historically, infanticide was used as a form of contraception by hunter-gatherers in nomadic tribes, when their societies were at war and food supplies were scarce.[1] The horrific act of infanticide has been practiced throughout history amongst communities for various reasons, the most common motivations being, social, economic and religious.[2] Historian Anne Kilday describes infanticide as an ‘international phenomenon’.[3] Economic motivations behind infanticide can be seen woven throughout history and in the nineteenth century, women often resorted to infanticide as a form of delayed abortion amongst the most destitute of women.[4] For a considerable part of the Victorian era, London accounted for roughly half of all infanticide cases carried out in England and Wales; ‘Edwin Lancaster, coroner for Central Middlesex, claimed that some 12,000 London mothers had murdered their infants without detection.’[5] Infants were killed during this period by means of strangulation, suffocation and drowning.[6]

Responses to cases of infanticide in the nineteenth century saw an increasing connection to feminine ideals. Although the vast majority of infanticide victims were new-born infants, the murder of a child up to one year of age was categorised as infanticide under Victorian law. Single women and those working as domestic servants were the most frequently acknowledged social group of women to commit infanticidal acts during this time period.[7] James Kelly believes that this was a result of women longing to escape the ‘consequent social ostracism and economic marginalization’ they faced when giving birth to an illegitimate child. The ideal Victorian woman was held in high regard as an emblem of inherent purity. As a result of this, the nineteenth century saw an increase in reported infanticide cases as it contradicted the new-found values of womanhood, becoming a threat to the strong principles of family that stood at the roots of Victorian society.[8]

Nineteenth-century society in Britain saw a growth in fascination with infanticide cases. The horrors of child-murder were sensationalised in the press and became a catalyst for Victorian anxieties and fears surrounding motherhood. Infanticide spread alarm throughout Victorian society regarding the innocence and vulnerability of new-born infants.[9] Horrifying cases of infanticide were often published: local and national newspapers identified public areas such as parks and streets in which the bodies of infants were found.[10] ‘It has been said of the police, with too much truth’, reported Mrs Baines in the Journal of Social Sciences in 1866, ‘that they think no more of finding the dead body of a child in the streets than of picking up a dead cat or dog’.[11]

Throughout the early 1800s, doctors of medicine developed and established the medical term ‘infanticide’ as an indication of insanity. Scholars have been inclined to focus on infanticidal women and the questions surrounding infant murder, such as puerperal insanity, poverty and illegitimacy.[12] Puerperal insanity was one of the few psychiatric disorders that was recognised in the Nineteenth-Century, understood as insanity caused by the trauma of childbirth.[13] Nineteenth-century Britain saw dramatic changes to the legislation of infanticide and insanity. The National Health Service states that the 1800s saw a ‘new found interest in the causes and treatment of mental illness’, which shaped the way in which the insane were assessed and treated as a result of their condition.[14] Additionally, the changing legislation of insanity shaped society’s responses to infanticidal mothers and created a more ‘sympathetic approach’ to cases of infanticide as a result of insanity.[15] The changing legislation surrounding the murder of children demonstrates an already ongoing changing perception of women prior to the nineteenth century. The Infanticide statute of 1624 became the first written law for the killing of children and was established to ‘prevent the destroying and murthering of bastard children’, demonstrating the strong link between illegitimacy and infanticide already embedded in the seventeenth century.[16]

Infanticide carried with it a sentence of execution in the nineteenth century, however, it was widely accepted that a woman who committed acts of infanticide did so because she had been driven to insanity.[17] Consequently, judges avoided sentencing such women to death by charging them with concealment of birth rather than infanticide which carried a prison sentence rather than execution; not reporting the birth of a child would be considered concealment of birth.[18] Lord Ellenborough’s Act of 1803 saw dramatic change in the conviction of infanticide and overrode the harshness of the Stuart Bastard Neonaticide Act of 1624, which decreed that the mothers of bastard children, if found attempting to conceal the child’s birth by hiding the body, were assumed to have murdered the infant and were therefore subject to the death penalty. Yet, the newly established 1803 Act assumed the mother innocent of infanticide until proven guilty. As a result of the newly established law no women were executed in Britain for the crime of infanticide after 1849.[19]

This article recognises that the changing perception of insanity shaped the responses to infanticidal women in nineteenth-century Britain. Society understood that poverty and illegitimacy were also causes of infanticide. In addition to this it is argued that mothers who committed infanticide as a result of poverty, illegitimacy and insanity were recognised as victims of society and were thus treated with increasing sympathy. Furthermore, although there was increasing sympathy for infanticidal mothers in this period, there was a continuous recognition that female baby-farmers and infanticidal fathers were murderous and thus were increasingly villainised in society. Nineteenth-century baby-farmers consisted of women who offered their services to take on other women’s children in exchange for payment, and young children who were taken to these establishments often died within a short period of time; thus young vulnerable mothers who could not cope with motherhood would use baby-farmers as a desperate solution in an attempt to rid themselves of their child.[20]

 

Bad?

Records from the nineteenth century evidence the existing stereotypes illustrated in society when discussing infanticide. The majority of those convicted of both infanticide and concealment of birth were un-married, working-class women in domestic service.[21] It was not uncommon for single working-class women of very little means to enter the workhouse in order to give birth as their pregnancy left them destitute and desperate. Therefore, it is significant to note that a considerable number of infanticide cases during this time period involved women who had recently entered the workhouse with limited and fragile support networks; Jackson argues that for these single women there was no place for them in society, even in working-class culture.[22] Society acknowledged that poverty became one of the primary causes of infanticide in Britain during the nineteenth century; in conjunction with the ‘avoidance of shame of an illegitimate child’, illegitimacy was perceived to be a far more influencing factor resulting in child-murder.[23] However, impoverished women were perceived as unwell as they did not fit into the Victorian ideology of femininity and thus were treated with increasing sympathy. This was because motherhood was such a strong Victorian ideal that only women who were in mental and social distress would commit acts such as infanticide and break away from the strongly implemented ideals of femininity and motherhood.[24] This section explores Victorian perceptions of poverty and illegitimacy as influencing factors of infanticide; whilst acknowledging societies’ increasing sympathetic responses to infanticidal women. Furthermore, this section analyses the way in which baby-farmers and infanticidal fathers were continually villainised in society.

Prior to the 1624 Infanticide Act equal numbers of mothers with legitimate and illegitimate offspring were tried with child-murder. However, after the 1634 statute the majority of mothers found guilty of infanticide were unmarried women, further suggesting that during the nineteenth century, illegitimacy was perceived to be associated with guilt and the mothers of illegitimate children were therefore more likely to be found guilty of infanticide in a court of law.[25] Nineteenth-century Christianity preached that, ‘virginity was not only an admirable human condition, but also the only appropriate state for an unmarried woman.’[26] The very existence of an illegitimate child would have deemed a woman in ‘poor mental state’, as the connection between female sexuality and insanity had been progressively woven into Victorian society.[27] Moreover, illegitimacy in the nineteenth century presented a threat to female reputation.

Thorn states that the Victorian period brought about a medical transformation in which the body of the infant became a vast source of medical knowledge and thus medicalised the criminal trial; consequently the judge and jury were no longer dependent on the mother’s testimony and were made reliant on the medical autopsy.[28] New medical understandings of the body and insanity led to the end of executions as a punishment for infanticide: the doctor’s testimony ensured that though the mother had been found guilty of infanticide she would not be sentenced to execution or become a public spectacle, but would be disciplined under the newly developing procedures of social welfare.[29] Therefore, the medicalisation of infanticide trials shaped the legislation surrounding child-murder and created a new classification of crime for infanticidal mothers. One doctor in 1865 stated that:

Above all let, women feel that they should not be visited with so much indignation for simple pregnancy as for murder… Let society, if possible, look on the fact of illegitimate pregnancy with a more forgiving eye, and pity at least the unhappy victims of seduction, or the otherwise innocent who may have fallen. Let such victims have their future course through life of a less hopeless character. [30]

This demonstrates an increasing sympathy toward infanticidal women. When illegitimacy was a factor, such women were regarded as victims of a discriminating society, as opposed to simply being irredeemably cruel. In the nineteenth century juries were reluctant to commit the infanticidal mother to death whom had suffered deplorable and distressing social conditions that were instrumental in her committing of the crime.[31] Nevertheless, the act of infanticide in itself contradicted the Victorian idealised role of femininity in which motherhood was seen as central to their identity.[32] Committing child-murder was perceived to be unnatural and society demanded a solution for the eradication of infanticide and punishment for the offender.[33]

The harshness of the Bastardy Clauses originating in the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act placed full moral responsibility for the illegitimacy of a child on the mother, ensuring that the mother carried the full financial burden of the child.[34] Therefore, illegitimacy and poverty can be perceived as a viable cause for the increase in infanticide.[35] Hoffer and Hull have argued that the 1624 Act to prevent the ‘Destroying and Murthering of Bastard Children’ consequently became a motive for avoiding the ‘economic burdens of bastardy’ resulting in child-murder.[36] In order to understand the motives behind nineteenth-century infanticide, it is important to recognise the Victorian understandings of sexual liaisons and social practices connecting to marriage. The inherent abundance of shame in association with pre-marital fornication and the sexual ignorance apparent within nineteenth-century society created a platform upon which infanticide would be conceived as a viable option to combat illegitimacy.[37]  On 23 October 1851, The Morning Chronicle reported a case of infanticide near Bury St. Edmunds in which, ‘a young woman named Maria Stewart was charged, on her own confession, with the murder of her two illegitimate children’. The accused stated that:

It was born about 9 o’clock in the morning and was alive in the afternoon. When I laid hands on it, held it to my breast and let it suck it began to cackle and I thought someone would hear it, and that I must kill it. I put my hand over the mouth and nipped the throat with my fingers, and then took my garter and tied or put it around the neck so that it might die okay. I killed it because I thought I should not have a father for my child…It is the second little girl I have murdered, I strangled the both.[38]

This case illustrates that illegitimacy was Maria Stewart’s central reason behind the murder of her two children. Maria’s reasoning for murdering her two children is representative of the way in which illegitimate single mothers were ostracised from polite society.  The profound sensationalism of infanticidal cases in nineteenth-century publications scandalised child-murder and shaped the responses to infanticidal women portraying them as victims of illegitimacy and thus created an increasing sympathetic response to infanticidal mothers. [39]

Whilst infanticide was a criminal act, it was viewed as a lesser crime than that of the murder of an adult. This can be partly attributed to society’s observations of Victorian women and how they were generally regarded as acting under the extreme ‘pressures of poverty and social stigma’.[40] Poverty was a crucial factor that unquestionably contributed to women committing infanticide.[41] D’Cruze presents the case study of Sarah Cooper in 1847 in which poverty is shown to be the significant factor behind the murder of her child. The young women is said to have stood before the Central Criminal Court accused of murdering her new-born infant, her circumstances being ‘very bad indeed’, she showed no sign of having a regular occupation and thus no income. After she was in custody, a police sergeant stated that:

… it would not have happened had she not been in such a bad state of poverty, that she and her children had been starving all the winter…she said that the child was hers…that she must have fainted after she was delivered, and she had put it where it was found.[42]

In support of this, it is important to note that some mothers turned to infanticide as their last option to prevent the infant from growing up in a life of poverty and suffering. [43]  A mother’s act of intentional infanticide can therefore be seen as an emotional reaction and an act of love in order to stop the child from suffering as opposed to an act of inherent violence and cruelty. The police sergeant’s admission to Sarah Cooper’s distressing conditions further illustrates the changing perceptions of infanticidal women during this period and further demonstrates that mothers who committed infanticide as a result of poverty, were seen as victims of society and treated with increasing sympathy in the nineteenth century.

During the eighteenth century violence was an accepted code of male behaviour yet, upon the emergence of the Victorian period, violence became less tolerated in polite society.[44] Violence against children in the nineteenth century became much less tolerated as it contradicted the ideals of the new Victorian gentlemen and the expectations of a father as a moral protector.[45] Child-murder was a heinous criminal act committed historically by both parental figures yet, during the Victorian period the word ‘infanticide’ was labelled only on the murders committed by women.[46] Men accused of child-murder often killed their offspring in an attempt to conceal the evidence of their illicit sexual relations. Nonetheless, infanticide historians have often concentrated on unmarried mothers, whose fear of shame upon exposure of their illegitimate child had come to be associated with puerperal mania and infanticide. Men also attempted to evade association with illegitimate children either because they were married or they feared for their social positions.[47] Historian Jennifer Thorn discovered that there were around eighty articles written by The Times that document paternal child-murder between the years of 1807 and 1905; these articles described the murders as being, ‘committed largely by working-class fathers who reportedly strangled, stabbed, beat, and drowned their children’.[48]

Frost argues that the act of child-murder committed by men was less frequent in comparison to that of women and therefore has received much less historical attention.[49] Furthermore, Victorian masculinity encompassed the significance of male honour and ‘saw the pride and status of the patriarchal family’ at the central core of fatherhood; this transgression of the Victorian ideals of fatherhood became of significant importance in infanticide cases and thus shaped the way in which infanticidal men were perceived as a more severe threat to society than that of infanticidal women.[50] As a result of this, men suffered from fewer leniencies in court as a consequence of their violent aggression in order to conceal the shame of their infidelity.[51] It was assumed in the nineteenth century that men were sexual aggressors who ‘seduced women into falling’ and were therefore released from their parental responsibility. However, whilst women could claim to have committed infanticide as a result of insanity or poverty, men could not.[52]  Jackson has argued that men were to blame for tempting women into sexual acts more so than women were to blame for yielding to them and thus society held little sympathy for men in infanticide cases.[53] Furthermore historian Jade Shepherd states that murderous fathers were treated unsympathetically, as savage tyrants due to their inability to plead insanity as motivation behind the murder of their children.[54]

Male infanticide cases were very much dependent on the masculine characteristics of respectability and class. Frost argues that the higher the social standing of the accused gentleman, the more he had to lose as a result of an allegation of illegitimacy; the courts held very little sympathy for men in cases of infanticide as they held the strong belief that men were themselves responsible for their position in both society and familial situations.[55] The few accounts of child-murder committed by men during the nineteenth century provide insight into the ‘ideological pressures and fears underlying constructions of fatherhood’ that existed during this period. Whilst the press and popular fiction often represented the infanticidal mother as a young single woman in stifling poverty, men were usually depicted as violent, hostile and unable to provide for their families, a complete contrast to the idealised Victorian gentleman.[56] As Jackson has argued, women were seen as ‘passive, compassionate, pitiable, and innocent victims of society’s heathen principles and of men’s criminally cruel behaviour… acknowledged in part by the wider public.’[57] This further illustrates the lack of sympathy for men accused of child-murder and demonstrates society’s perception of the infanticidal father as a violent aggressor. One of the chief motivations behind fatherly violence came as a consequence of objecting to pay for financial support, despite the Victorian ideals of masculinity that inherently obliged men to provide for their family.[58]  Men were more frequently executed for infanticide unlike women; this was often due to women being able to claim postpartum ‘mania’ and puerperal insanity whilst men were unable to do so.[59] Victorian courts considered that men were able to obtain sufficient amounts of self-control in regards to violent behaviour. [60] Hunter in 1783 argued that, ‘the father of the child is really criminal, often cruelly so; the mother is weak credulous and deluded’.[61] This suggests that the attitude towards men was one of continuity while that toward women changed throughout the century becoming much more understanding and lenient in their attitudes to infanticidal women.

Nevertheless, infanticidal fathers and baby-farmers were continuously villainised in the Victorian period in contrast to the way in which infanticidal mothers were treated. By the mid-1800s resourceful women from within the working-classes began establishing child minding businesses in exchange for payment. These businesses were commonly known as baby-farms and allowed single unmarried women to continue in employment and function within the public sphere.[62] Established baby-farms often ran on overstrained resources and as a consequence resulted in an extremely low standard of care for the infants.[63] For the majority of people during the nineteenth century, seeking out a baby-farm was usually a last resort and was, ‘probably restricted to unmarried mothers…and social outcasts such as casual prostitutes or members of the petty criminal classes’.[64] Nevertheless, the children in these late-Victorian enterprises were dying at alarmingly high rates and the ‘farms’ were soon exposed as corrupt and murderous trades.[65]

Commonly known as ‘she-butchers’ in the eighteenth century, nineteenth-century baby-farmers were a consequence of societal anxiety surrounding ‘over-breeding’ within the poorer classes. Baby-farming was a pejorative term that grouped together all working-class females involved in the same criminal class.

[n]o respectable woman . . . would have called herself a baby farmer, ‘Baby farming’ was an accusation, not a profession. In normal usage, the term conflated the criminal acts of wilful murderers with the daily labor of honest nurses. [66]

It is significant to note that Annie Cossins villainises the term ‘baby farmer’ when she states that, ‘[n]o respectable woman . . . would have called herself a baby farmer’ suggesting that the mothers were exempt from blame in cases of infanticide that occurred within baby-farms. Printed in the early 1860s, this poem reveals the public’s abhorrence to Mrs Winsor’s baby-farm and is representative of society’s repugnance to the baby-farming industry during the nineteenth century.

This dreadful woman, Charlotte Winsor,

Took children in to nurse,

A devil she was in human form

We could not call her worse;

She would tamper with their young mother,

With if you would like to pay,

For a few pounds, say three of four,

I will put your child away.

Those children belong to some poor girl

That has been led astray.

Mrs. Winsor would take them to nurse

As long as they would pay.

She would murder them – yes, strangle them

For this paltry gain,

By putting them between beds,

Or pressing the juglar vein.[67]

It is significant to note that the poem presents the mother of the child as a victim of the baby-farming industry when it states that the mother has been ‘led astray’ and is supportive of the ongoing argument that society increasingly sympathised with the infant’s mother. Additionally, the ‘baby-farmer’ is endlessly associated with blame similarly to that of the infanticidal father. The interesting use of language by the poet such as ‘young mother’ and ‘poor girl’ suggests that it was perceived by Victorian society that only young, single, vulnerable women living in poverty sought out baby-farms as a desperate solution to rid themselves of shame.

Motherhood was seen as central to the construction of female identity in the nineteenth century, therefore, female ‘baby-farmers’ in this period juxtaposed these strongly implemented feminine ideals.[68] ‘The Execution of Mrs Winsor’, demonstrates the Victorian anxieties surrounding child-murder and the conflict between femininity and motherhood in the fourth stanza when it states:

While the babes on her would smile,

She would kiss and feed him tenderly,

And murder all the while.[69]

Anxiety around illegitimate children and the practice of baby-farming erupted in the late 1860s and the women involved became objects of scorn and derision.[70] On 25 September 1867, The Pall Mall Gazette stressed that ‘care of illegitimate children has become a regular trade’ and that the death of a child whilst in the care of a baby-farm was often a ‘happy release’ for the parent.[71] The press’s evaluation of the nineteenth-century baby-farm suggests that these establishments murdered children upon the instruction of the mother(s) and therefore should carry the same amount of blame as infanticidal fathers. Nevertheless, the language presented in the first stanza of the poem ‘Baby-Farming Mothers Bewareis illustrative of society’s attitudes towards Victorian mothers and the ‘baby-farming’ trade during the nineteenth century:

Oh, mothers, fond mothers your attention I pray.

And listen a while to a pitiful late. It’s a out baby farming a scandalous trade.

And shocking disclosures have a lately been made.

Near Brixton in Surrey this system so base.

Has at last! Been discovered a social disgrace.[72]

The phrases such as, ‘scandalous trade’ and ‘social disgrace’ are representative of the societal distain against the new found practice and thus become a contradiction of the Victorian familial ideals of gentility and sensibility. [73] The language used in this poem demonstrates the continuation of the idealisation of motherhood when it describes the parental figures as ‘fond mothers’. As a result of the Victorian ideals of motherhood ‘baby-farming women’ were seen as transgressors of their natural roles as women and thus presented a threat to society as they prevented mothers from fulfilling their natural duty. Consequently, baby-farmers were villainised by society and were judged with more severity than infanticidal mothers.

Perceptions of poverty and illegitimacy as justified causes of infanticide shaped the way in which infanticidal women were viewed in the nineteenth century. Men of the courts increasingly anticipated that infanticidal women were, ‘young, poor… naive victims of a wily seducer’ and thus justified the sympathetic treatment they received.[74] Perceptions of infanticidal women have fashioned more sympathetic reactions from society as shown by the poems in Appendix 1 and 2 which villainise the baby-farming industry. Furthermore, society’s perception of male infanticide as a villainous crime further weakened the impact of female infanticide; the medicalisation of insanity ensured that ‘mad’ women were being medically diagnosed as insane and were no longer a threat to the Victorian ideals of motherhood. [75] Furthermore, society’s perception of infanticidal fathers as ‘criminally cruel’ suggests the possibility that the nineteenth century saw an increasing shift away from the infanticidal woman as ‘bad’ and instead seeing them as victims of insanity and society.[76] Moreover, the transgression of the Victorian ideals of fatherhood became of significant importance in infanticide cases and thus shaped the way in which infanticidal men were perceived as a more severe threat to society than that of infanticidal women. In the Victorian period women were seen as ‘innocent victims of society’s heathen principles and of men’s criminally cruel behaviour.’[77] There was substantial emphasis on the mother’s ‘natural capacity for love and nurture’ and as a result, the nineteenth century saw a growing shift of sympathy for infanticidal mothers who were seen as victims of insanity or of society itself.

 

Mad?

Alongside the understanding that poverty and illegitimacy caused infanticide, child-murder was also perceived to be a product of insanity in the nineteenth century. The 1800s saw significant changes in the legislation of the Lunacy Acts. The Lunacy Act of 1845 and the County Asylums Act of 1845 combined to form mental health law in England and Wales.[78] Their most significant provision was in categorising mentally ill people as patients in order to stop the abuse of the insane; patients were admitted to licensed premises and institutionalised care was established for lunatics in public asylums.[79] This act was revisited in 1853 and ensured that a medical examination and certificate was to be issued and signed by a medical practitioner when administrating a patient to an asylum.[80] Finally, the Lunacy Act of 1890 generated a set of rules evoking legal controls over the psychiatric admissions of private patients.[81] The newly founded legislation of the Lunacy Acts during the course of the nineteenth century demonstrates the ongoing formal treatment of insanity during the Victorian era. This formalised treatment of the ‘insane’ enabled the Criminal Justice System to utilise the new medical advances in mental illness to diagnose women with puerperal insanity and which constituted an ‘appropriate charge’ in place of a prison sentence.[82] The emergence of ‘moral insanity’ into the medical profession saw the appearance of a body of ‘alienists’ whose job was to identify and treat mental conditions. This section assesses perceptions of insanity and establishes insanity as the chief influential factor in cases of infanticide during the nineteenth century. Furthermore, this section evidences that there was a growing sympathy for infanticidal mothers in Victorian Britain.

Puerperal insanity became a popular topic amongst ‘alienists’ and by the middle of the nineteenth century it had been readily implemented into the discourse of insanity.[83] The 1800s saw an increasing development of medicine as a natural science consequently leading to the rise of the medical profession and the specialisation of mental illnesses.[84] The medicalisation of infanticidal cases in the nineteenth century was dependent on medical professionals ‘pathologising’ puerperal mania, consequently treating the accused as subjects of ‘medical rather than legal attention and treatment rather than punishment’.[85] In the nineteenth century, the role of doctors as witnesses in infanticide trials became increasingly prominent; this was a consequence of the complex forensic evidence they were required to provide; in the case of doctors whom worked in mental asylums legal proceedings such as infanticide trials could be considered opportunities to improve their status and repertoire.[86]

This section assesses perceptions of insanity and establishes insanity as the chief influential factor in cases of infanticide during the nineteenth century. Furthermore, this section evidences that there was a growing sympathy for infanticidal mothers in Victorian Britain as a result of the increasing awareness of mental health disorders.

On the 10 October 1881, Catherine (Kate) Rumsby from Hertford was accused of the murder of her new-born infant. The case demonstrates the newly founded importance of the doctor in infanticide trials. The attending registered medical practitioner, George Marshall Phillips, concurred that:

the umbilical cord was broken off and had not been tied. There was a long abrasion on the front of the neck about the length and width of a finger, blood on the brain, bruises to the right hand side of the face and blood in the ear. Both lungs inflated and were filling up the cavity of the chest nearly covering the pericardia. The ten portions of arms and legs were immersed in hot water sufficiently long enough to solidify the flesh. There were patches of blood on the accused’s dress corresponding to the size of the placenta.[87]

Doctor Phillips confirmed that the bruising on the forehead and blood on the brain were sufficient to cause death and that the lungs were capable of working upon birth. He also stated that he could not verify that the umbilical cord had been severed before death. The bruising on the top of the infant’s cranium, as Doctor Phillips stated ‘may have been caused by the child falling on the floor not in birth.’ The remains of the infant were found in two separate places, the head and the torso in a paper box and the remaining limbs in a cooking pot upon the kitchen stove. Medical practitioner George Phillips deducted that the violent mutilation and trauma to the body were a consequence of the mother’s insanity and concluded that Catherine Rumsby was in a ‘state of much mental distress and excitement at the time of the murder’.[88] In 1859, Forbes Winslow, writing about puerperal insanity, argued that subsequent to giving birth the woman’s temper ‘changes completely, and family affection is apparently changed into the bitterest hatred; this is particularly observed as regards the child, which the mother often attempts to destroy.’[89] Catherine Rumsby pleaded not guilty of infanticide in court. Although a conviction on this case could not be found it might be considered that as a result of the statements given by Doctor Phillips and the apparent Victorian anxieties surrounding puerperal mania, Miss Rumsby may have been confined to an asylum as a result of suffering from puerperal insanity. In 1815, historian William Hunter declared that, ‘it is only murder when it is executed with some degree of cool judgement, and wicked intention. When committed under phrenzy from despair, can it be more offensive in the sight of God, than under a phrenzy from a fever, or in lunacy?’ In addition to this, Hunter also stated that, ‘the insane are not to be held responsible for their actions’.[90] The case of Catherine Rumsby provides evidence to suggest that insanity was perceived to be the main influencing factor behind her act of infanticide.

Victorian notions of femininity understood the female body to be associated with unconditional love and nurture of her husband and offspring.[91] These illustrations of the ideal women were based upon images of motherhood, domesticity and passive obedience, compared to ‘the sexually aggressive harlot’ exiled from society as a consequence of defying the Victorian codes of conduct that deemed their behaviour as ‘irrational’ or ‘wicked’. Women who denied ideological codes of behaviour were understood as ‘becoming more like the animal within, she was a mythical figure of power and destruction, selling her soul to the powers of Darkness.’[92] The behaviour of mothers suffering from puerperal insanity was shocking to Victorian society as their unsettling and frightening behaviour became a risk to new-born children, a time when the young infant is in constant need of its mother’s care and protection. ‘The hand that rocked the cradle was also the hand that slapped, smothered or strangled the infant’, as women suffering from insanity put their baby at risk of injury and even fatality.[93]

During the middle of the nineteenth century, ‘child-murder became a modern secret…the modernity of this secret was signalled in the vigorous publicity that surrounded it: everybody was talking about how no one was willing to talk about it.’[94] In 1862, William Burke Ryan described his first-hand account of living in a time of heightened infanticide rates.

[T]he feeble wail of murdered childhood in its agony assails our ears at every turn, and is borne on every breeze. The sight is horrified as, day after day, the melancholy catalogue of murders meets the view, and we try to turn away the gaze in hope of some momentary relief. But turn where we may, still we are met by the evidence of a widespread crime. In the quiet of the bedroom we raise the box-lid, and the skeletons are there. In the calm evening walk we see in the distance the suspicious-looking bundle, and the mangled infant within. By the canal side, or in the water, we find the dead child. In solitude of the wood we are horrified by the ghastly sight; and if we betake ourselves to the rapid rail in order to escape the pollution, we find a journey’s end that the mouldering remains of a murdered innocent have been our travelling companion; and that the odour from that unsuspected parcel truly indicates what may be found within.[95]

The Victorian era was a period surrounded by an atmosphere of elevated anxieties concerning the endangerments of childbirth ‘and threats to the sanctity of the bourgeois home offered an ideal medium for it to take hold and flourish’.[96] The period saw the introduction of the new term and medical jargon ‘puerperal insanity’ and ‘puerperal mania’ into medical texts which incorporated the newly established forms of mental illness associated with childbirth.[97] Expectant mothers before the introduction of ‘puerperal insanity’ were still thought to fall victim to mental disorders, such as hysteria.[98] Women’s biological weaknesses that had been medically determined in the nineteenth century were thought to have put them at risk of developing insanity during pregnancy or subsequently months after giving birth due to their weakened mental state.[99]

Giving birth in the Victorian era was increasingly described as, ‘dangerous and pathological rather than normal and natural’; in his introduction to ‘Lectures on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery’, Robert Lee states that that all women were ‘exposed to great suffering and danger during pregnancy and childbirth’.[100] Although the disorder became a complete contradiction to the social norms of behaviour during this period, puerperal insanity became so frequently identified by male medical professionals that it became an accepted accomplice to the process of giving birth.[101] The new medical jargon and legislation surrounding insanity and puerperal mania ensured that childbirth was perceived to be a threat to new mothers and also became a ‘successful defence strategy’ in infanticide cases during this period.[102] The Victorian period saw the introduction of the term ‘puerperal insanity’ and its use in both a medical and social setting; violent mania, severe melancholia, or postpartum dysphoria were accredited by physicians to be accepted as a common consequence of childbirth.[103] In the 1880s the eminent psychiatrist Thomas Clouston described how childbirth, ‘One of the most joyous times of life is made full of anxiety and the strongest affection on earth is then often suddenly converted by disease into an antipathy: for the mother not only ‘forgets her suckling child’, but often becomes a danger to its life’.[104] In 1848, James Reid, physician to the General Lying-in Hospital in London, described how:

the mothers urged on by some unaccountable impulse to commit violence on herself or on her offspring… the infant is usually the object … in puerperal insanity; an impulse to destroy, haunts the mind continually, and struggles with maternal tenderness… The sufferer, in some cases, implores that the infant may be removed from her, lest she should altogether lose her self-control, and is heard praying to heaven to prevent her from yielding temptation.[105]

It is significant to note the juxtaposition of the emotional and dispassionate language used by Reid, when he refers to children as the ‘object’ and cause of the mothers suffering yet, he discusses ‘maternal tenderness’, juxtaposing ‘puerperal insanity’ with ‘maternal tenderness’.[106]

In the case of Rose Earle for the murder of her new-born child (in Appendix 3) who was also named Rose Earle in Liverpool October 1899, (by cutting of the throat) the mother is explicitly described as showing extreme physical signs of insanity. Medical Officer (MO) Arthur Price stated that:

Her general health has not been good. She has been depressed in her manners subject to outbursts of crying, swinging of the hands and generally chewing…She also suffers from delusions to the effect that God told her to kill her child to save it from suffering and she hears impossible voices urging her to commit suicide, says she must die as she is not fit to live…I consider her to be unsound of mind.[107]

Rose Earle’s apparent affection and maternal tenderness for the child was demonstrated when she stated that she must save it from ‘suffering’. The MO’s evaluation of her physical symptoms and emotional verbal outbursts demonstrates the changing nature of how women were perceived to have developed insanity during the nineteenth century as a result of giving birth. [108] In addition to this, the certificate (in Appendix 3) provides evidence to suggest that the medicalisation of insanity born of the nineteenth century shaped the way in which infanticidal women were treated in court. The certificate confirms that Miss Earle was incarcerated in the Liverpool Lunatic Asylum in 1899.

Marland states ‘that doctors saw infanticide as an actual symptom of puerperal insanity, so prevalent was the extraordinarily deranged and dangerous behaviour of the women, expressed in sexual obscenity, filthy language, self-neglect, attempted suicide and violence to others.’[109] This can be evidenced through the confinement of women to asylums as punishment for infanticidal crimes in replacement of execution. Subsequent to both the mental and physical pain of giving birth, new mothers were seen as predisposed to developing deranged, neglectful and violent behaviour. Thus, they became a risk to themselves, their family members and most importantly their new-born infant(s). These behaviour traits were categorised as mental conditions and labelled as puerperal insanity or mania. This newly established diagnosis in new mothers led to its increasing use in defence of the mother in cases of infanticide in the Criminal Courts.[110] Furthermore, Logan states that, ‘deliberate infanticide by a sane woman has far different connotations from the unaccountability of a random act prompted by insanity,’ further demonstrating the ongoing understanding of mental health and how this resulted in growing sympathy for infanticidal mothers in the nineteenth century. [111]

In the case of Bridget Doyle accused of the murder of Ellen Doyle in Liverpool in 1899, the witness statement from Mrs Doyle’s eight year old son John shows that the accused made statements such as ‘Oh my Jesus, begin today tomorrow is too late.’ After that she remained in a kneeling position on the bed and seemed to be praying silently until 4 o’clock the next morning when she said, ‘the devil is coming into me and it is not Kate Holland.’[112] The accused was, according to young John Doyle, ‘sitting on the floor bleeding from a wound in her throat and the deceased lying a little to the right in a pool of blood.’ Bridget Doyle was under mental observation since her reception on 27 September 1899 and was assessed by Medical Officer Arthur Price who found her to be:

very violent, behaving in an excited maniacal fashion shouting incoherently. It had been necessary to transfer her to prison in a strait jacket, restraint was continued for two days when she became stuporous…She still refuses to speak nor has she spoken since I have seen her. I consider her to be unsound of mind.[113]

Though the incriminating evidence suggests that Bridget Doyle was guilty of the murder of her child and thus of infanticide the certificate in Appendix 4 demonstrates that Bridget Doyle was ‘unfit to plead’ and was ‘to be detained in strict custody as a criminal lunatic until her Majesty’s pleasures be known’. Bridget Doyle’s indefinite confinement to a lunatic asylum in Liverpool as punishment for her crime further supports the argument that the changing legislation of insanity shaped responses to infanticidal mothers and created a more ‘sympathetic approach’ in infanticidal trials as a result of the medicalisation of insanity.[114]

Puerperal mania was of great interest to psychiatrists during this period as it not only ‘developed their theories which tied women’s mental disturbances to their intrinsic weakness and the rigours of reproductions, but also linked women to a wider range of social, environmental and moral factors’.[115] It was mania which appeared most frequently in infanticide cases with its, ‘temporary nature and sudden onset, typified by the struggle that mothers felt… between not wanting to harm their infants and the inability to prevent themselves from doing so’.[116] This can be evidenced in the case of Mary Harrison who was charged with the murder of her two children on the 28 September 1894 at the parish of Bootle in the County of Cumberland; her charge reads as follows, ‘She did feloniously wilfully and of her malice afterthought did kill and murder one Hannah Mary James and John Harrison against the peace of our Sovereign Lady the Queen her Crown and Dignity.’ Upon questioning at H. M. Prison Carlisle on 11 October 1894, the accused stated that:

On Friday morning last I brought my children down stairs soon after my husband had left the house. I got a step ladder and put it against the water tub. I went up the ladder with Hannah Mary and baby in my arms. I got into the water with them I held them in the water until they were dead. I intended to drown myself but the water in the barrel was not deep enough… I have been troubled in my mind for the last three years…I told Hannah Mary I was going to drown them both she cried bitterly and said oh mamma mamma don’t. I now sincerely regret I have done… I hope the lord will forgive me.[117]

Women who suffered from puerperal insanity often displayed outbursts of deranged and dangerous behaviour such as ‘attempted suicide and violence to others’ as displayed by Mary Harrison.[118] The Victorian period saw a general consensus about puerperal insanity and its sub-divisions: Melancholia, ‘a form of intense misery which was likely to result in permanent insanity’ and Mania, ‘distinguished by overexcited, disruptive and deviant behaviour, usually curable within a few months.’[119] Mary Harrison’s initial regret for the murders of both her children in her confession provides confirmation that she was suffering from mania; her apparent ignorance to her child’s cries at the time of the murders suggests a poor emotional and mental state and that she may have been suffering from post-partum melancholia. Furthermore in a statement made by J. A. Campbell the Medical Superintendent of Cumberland and Hertfordshire concludes that, ‘Mary Harrison was insane at the time her two children were drowned on September 28th 1894’. [120] This is further supported by the certificate in Appendix 5 in which the verdict reads that Mary Harrison was ‘Found insane on arraignment by a jury duly empanelled for this purpose’ and certifies that the accused will be, ‘detained in custody until Her Majesty’s pleasure shall be known’. The courts verdict in response to Mary Harrison’s exhibit of insane behaviour further illustrates that there was a growing recognition and perception of insanity that shaped the responses to infanticidal women in the nineteenth century. Moreover, the treatment of Mary Harrison as a victim of insanity in conjunction with the case studies of Rose Earle and Bridget Doyle demonstrates that the newly perceived consequences of insanity became the most important factor in cases of infanticide in nineteenth-century Britain.

The ambiguity surrounding the definition of puerperal mania contrasts the increasing levels of precision that were used in the establishment of procedures evaluating the circumstances of new-born infant mortality; this included establishing the difference between stillborn infants and those who had been born alive. It was difficult to establish evidence whether the child had breathed independently from the mother, whether strangulation by the umbilical cord was accidental and occurred during the birthing process, or whether the infant had been deliberately suffocated.[121] This can be seen in the case against Florence Dolman who at the parish of South Bearsted in the county of Sussex on the 15 March 1881 ‘did feloniously wilfully and of her malice aforethought did kill and murder a certain female infant child born of her body’. After Dolman’s employer discovered the body of the new-born infant, Dr Samuel Maughan was called to the scene and noted:

There was blood in serval places of the carpet in the small room. I saw two boxes underneath the basin on the shelf, upon opening the box I found the body of a female child. The child had the head turned downwards, it was dead but quite warm. On examining the body, I found two wounds on the neck (one either side). The wound on the right was 2-2.5 inches long, deep. Superficial on the left around 1 inch. The windpipe and the gullet were both severed underneath the skin. The head was bruised at the back, potentially from birth. They did a test hydrostatic, the lung floated. I cannot say whether the child was fully born when the wounds were inflicted but it had respired. The deep wounds had the appearance of being done with scissors. I saw the scissors at the time on the floor…The right wound was such as would have caused death had the child been born alive. The umbilical cord was torn about 3 inches from the trunk. There was a loose piece about 6 inches long in the same vessel as the after birth. This appeared to have been cut. Jugular veins had been divided but not the main artery, assuming the child was born alive the wounds would have been fatal. There is not medical proof of the child being born alive. I think the wounds may have been inflicted before the child was fully born by the mother, I have heard of such cases and believe it to be possible.[122]

The denial of either pregnancy or of the new-born infant there after often resulted in the death of the infant.[123] Miss Dolman when approached by Dr Maughan and asked about the child said ‘I have not had one.’ Upon asking a second time the accused simply denied having had the child. Her denial further illustrates her weakened mental state. Although the verdict for this case could not be found, it demonstrates the difficulties that both medical and legal professionals had in finding concrete evidence to convict women of infanticide in the nineteenth century, as Dr Maughan could not find ‘medical proof of the child being born alive’.[124] Sit, Rothschild and Wisner stated that patients involved in cases of infanticide often ‘denied their pregnancy and the pain of childbirth; they often experienced dissociative hallucinations, brief amnesia, and depersonalization’.[125] Moreover, the case of Florence Dolman provides evidence to support that the changing legislation of the Infanticide Acts in the nineteenth century increased convictions of concealment of birth which further supports the fact that there was an ever increasingly sympathetic reaction to the infanticidal mother in the Victorian period.

To further illustrate the difficulties in evidencing still-birth and infanticide it is important to note that all forms of abortion were illegal. However, abortion after the fifth month of pregnancy remained a capital crime throughout the nineteenth century.[126] Nevertheless, unwanted pregnancies often resulted in abortions at all different stages of pregnancy; some desperate women who lacked networks in order to have an abortion resorted to infanticide.[127] Thorn describes the killing of new-born bastard infants during this time period as a ‘kind of belated birth control, regrettable but nonetheless understandable’.[128] In 1862, George Graves noted that the law’s classification of live birth in contrast to stillbirth could be seen ‘in the eye of the law of England, that it is, no crime to strangle a child with a cord, to smash its skull with a hammer, or to cut its throat from ear to ear… [if] its lower extremities are at the time within the body of the mother’.[129] Using Graves’s statement as a platform for the perceptions of society in the Victorian period, the case of Florence Dolman becomes representative of a more prominent sympathetic reaction to infanticide in cases of belated abortion.

The changes to the legislation of the Lunacy Acts during the nineteenth century had a profound effect on the establishment of the mentally ill as medical patients; further supported by historian Michael Foucault who has argued that madness has been understood to be a ‘phenomenon assessable and resolvable within the terms of the nineteenth-century explanatory programmes of chemistry, physics and biology’ and that prior to the nineteenth century there were no specific scientific regulations that classified a diagnosis of insanity.[130] Thus the medicalisation of insanity in this period created a more protective environment for the patients and established an improvement in their care in institutionalised asylums.[131] The case of Florence Dolman demonstrates the difficulty that doctors had in evidencing that the child was alive after birth in conjunction to establishing still-births in infanticide cases. Moreover, the cases of Rose Earle and Mary Harrison provides evidence to demonstrate that women who were accused of infanticide in the nineteenth century could now be verified as victims of a mental disorder and in association, not be convicted on a murder charge but treated more sympathetically escaping the death penalty.[132] The growing recognition and perception of insanity in the nineteenth century shaped the responses to infanticidal women and the way in which patients were treated in a court of law and by medical professionals.[133] This new found perception of puerperal mania as a mental illness shaped the way in which women were treated in infanticide trials evoking an increased sympathetic response from both judge and jury.[134] Similarly, the newly established language around ‘puerperal mania’ and ‘puerperal insanity’ demonstrates a shift away from the historical perceptions of hysteria and insanity that attacked women for their madness towards a more medicalised diagnosis and thus provided justification for infanticidal crimes.

 

Conclusion

Victorian periodicals sensationalised crimes of infanticide linked to illegitimacy and poverty in the nineteenth century. Acknowledging women as the victims of distressing social conditions shaped the way in which infanticidal women were received with compassion in both the criminal courts and in society. Although, illegitimacy juxtaposed the Victorian ideals of femininity and motherhood, single vulnerable mothers were seen to be victims of men who were perceived in the nineteenth century to be sexual aggressors and thus infanticidal women were treated with increasing sympathy.

Infanticidal fathers challenged the new-found ideologies of fatherhood as a moral protector and were treated with a greater sense of hostility both in society and in the court of law. Victorian society became progressively lenient towards the crime of infanticide when committed by women as a consequence of suffering from emotionally distressing conditions such as insanity, poverty and illegitimacy and therefore shaped society’s responses to infanticidal women. Nevertheless, female baby-farmers were treated with greater hostility as they juxtaposed the construct of motherhood that was seen as central to female identity in the nineteenth century. Additionally, female baby-famers were continuously villainised during this period as they disrupted the duty of other mothers and presented a threat to society. Male offenders accused of infanticide and the proprietors of baby-farms were punitively judged in society and were increasingly portrayed in a negative light as they became a threat to the Victorian ideologies and society’s well-being. Although the majority of the people accused of infanticide were women, it is significant to note that infanticidal fathers were also tried for the crime. Even though there were significantly fewer cases of infanticide committed by fathers during the course of the nineteenth century, men were treated considerably harsher than women in court as a consequence of transgressing the moral codes of masculine behaviour.

Nineteenth-century Britain saw a period of increased anxiety around child-murder; female infanticide was an act of emotional desperation in response to distressing social conditions. Newly established medical knowledge and recognised treatments of the insane confirmed society’s perception of insanity as the most influential factor instigating child-murder in this period. The new-found perception of puerperal mania as a mental illness fashioned the way in which women were treated in infanticide trials with an increasingly sympathetic response from both judge and jury. The social constructs of femininity by Victorian definition, similar to those of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries contained women to the domestic sphere and defined women as being, ‘virginal, passive and obedient’.[135] Insanity became a threat to Victorian society and  a solution was therefore needed. Overall, there were shifts in the nineteenth century in how infanticide was viewed; there was a growing recognition of the impact of insanity, poverty and illegitimacy in shaping the actions of mothers who killed their babies.

Appendices

Appendix 1:

Anon, ‘The Execution of Mrs Winsor’ (1865), in M. Jackson (ed.), Infanticide: Historical Perspectives on Child Murder and Concealment, 1550-2000 (Aldershot, 2002)

You mothers all, come listen to me,

While a dreadful tale I tell.

Of all she crimes upon this earth,

This one does all excel.

Children slaughter’d fearlessly,

And by a woman’s hand,

Just for the sake of getting gold,

This woman you command.

 

This dreadful woman, Charlotte Winsor,

Took children in to nurse,

A Devil she was in human form,

We could not call her worse;

She would tamper with their young mother,

With if you would like to pay,

For a few pounds, say three or four,

I will put your child away.

 

Those children belong to some poor girl,

That had been led astray,

Mrs. Winsor would take them to nurse,

As long as they would pay.

She would murder them – yes, strangle them,

For this paltry gain,

By putting them between beds,

Or pressing the juglar vein.

 

What must this wretch’s feelings be,

While the babes on her would smile,

She would kiss and feed him tenderly,

And murder all the while.

She would tamper with their motuers,

And of them beg and pray,

With get four pounds together dear,

And your child shall die to day.

 

She stifled one just three weeks old,

Jane Harris, she would say,

You will never see them after,

They will sink in the Torquay.

Dead children tell no tales,

And cause no more strife,

And with children smiling on her,

She would take away their life.

 

No one knows this woman’s crime,

Bet God’s a l eeing eye,

But justice overtook her,

And for these crimes she died.

The tempter and the murderess,

As you see by these lioes,

As gone to face their Maker,

And to answer for her crimes.

Appendix 2:

Anonymous, ‘Baby Farming Mothers Beware’ (London, 1871), in P. Chassaigne and W. Heppel, ‘Popular Representations of Crime: The Crime Broadside – A Subculture of Violence in Victorian Britain?’ Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies, 3/2 (1999), pp. 23-55.

Oh, mothers, fond mothers your attention
I pray.
And listen awhile to a pitiful lay.
It’s a out baby farming, a scandalous trade,
And shocking disclosures have lately been made,
Near Brixton, in Surrey, this system so base,
Has at last! been discovered, a social disgrace.

Then mothers, fond mothers, of your children take care,
And against baby farming I pray you beware.

What is baby farming, some mothers may say
Tis a practice that takes a poor infant away
From the care of it’s mother by a stranger instead,
The poor little creature is foster’d and bred.
It encourages vice and [?] I won’t name,
Tis a means to get rid of the offspring o’shame.

Sometimes a young woman has been led astray,
Sends the child of her guilt to be out of the way.
She pays a few pounds, tis a bargain, and then
She gives it up never to see it again,
While the indolent wife in luxury fed,
Pays a stranger to suckle her offspring instead

In a Terrace, at Brixton, two sisters did dwell
And of their sad doings the newspapers tell.
How they tempted poor mothers their offspring to leave,
To their tender care, but alas to deceive.
They starved them to death, for of late has been found.
The bodies of infants in the fields there around.

Poor children half-naked, their state we deplore,
Too weak for to stand, they laid on the floor
Unwashed and neglected by night and by day,
Till their dear little souls from life pass away
And what cared the nurse for the dead ones, [?]
The [?] of a child, why a saving would be.

Will the hen drive the chicken from under under her wing,
And leave it to perish, the poor little thing,
Or will dumb brutes desert their offspring, ah ! no,
What proofs of affection animals show.
Yes mothers alas their children will slay,
Or else pay another to put it away.

Appendix 3:

Rose Earle Certificate. The National Archives, ASSI 52/44, Murder: Earle, Rose (Infanticide), 1899.

Appendix 4:

Bridget Doyle Certificate. The National Archives, ASSI 52/43, Murder: Doyle, Bridget (Infanticide), 1899.

Appendix 5:

Mary Harrison Certificate. The National Archives, ASSI 52/20, Murder: Harrison, Mary (Infanticide), 1894.

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[1] N. Goc, Women, Infanticide and the Press, 1822-1922: News Narratives in England and Australia (Surrey, 2013), p. 1.

[2] S. Wilson, ‘Infanticide, Child Abandonment, and Female Honour in Nineteenth-Century Corsica’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 30/4 (1988), p. 762.

[3] A. A. Kilday, History of Infanticide in Britain, c. 1600 to the Present (Palgrave MacMillan, 2013), p. 2.

[4] R. G. Fuchs, Gender and Poverty in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Cambridge, 2005), p. 192.

[5] A. R. Higginbotham, ‘Sin of the Age: Infanticide and Illegitimacy in Victorian London’, Victorian Studies, 32/3 (1989) p. 319.

[6] Fuchs, Gender and Poverty, pp. 99-100.

[7] Fuchs, Gender and Poverty p. 99.

[8] Goc, Women, Infanticide and the Press, p. 1.

[9] Higginbotham, ‘Sin of the Age’, p. 320.

[10] J. Thorn, ‘Introduction: Stories of Child-Murder, Stories of Print’, in J. Thorn (ed.), Writing British Infanticide: Child-Murder, Gender, and Print, 1722-1859 (Newark, 2003), p. 13.

[11] H. Marland, ‘Getting Away with Murder? Puerperal Insanity, Infanticide and the Defence Plea’, in M. Jackson (ed.), Infanticide: Historical Perspectives on Child Murder and Concealment, 1550-2000 (Aldershot, 2002), p. 169.

[12] J. Shepherd, ‘“One of the Best Fathers until He Went Out of His Mind”: Paternal Child-Murder, 1864 –1900’, Journal of Victorian Culture, 18 (2013), p. 17.

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[13] I. Loudon, ‘Puerperal Insanity in the 19th Century’, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 81 (1988), p. 76.

[14] Anon., ‘19th Century Mental Health’, National Health Service (2014), <http://www.ashfordstpeters.nhs.uk/19th-century-mental-health>, accessed 16.01.2018.

[15] Marland, ‘Getting Away with Murder’, p. 173.

[16] A. Loughnan, ‘The “Strange” Case of the Infanticide Doctrine’, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 32 (2012), p. 690.

[17] Kilday, A History of Infanticide in Britain, p. 167.

For more information on infanticide and execution see: J. Gregory, Victorians Against the Gallows: Capital Punishment and the Abolitionist Movement in Nineteenth Century Britain (New York, 2011).

[18] S. D’Cruze, Everyday Violence in Britain, 1850-1950: Gender and Class (Essex, 2000), p. 58.

[19] M. L. Arnot, ‘The Murder of Thomas Sandles: Meanings of a Mid-Nineteenth-Century Infanticide’, in Jackson (ed.), Infanticide, p. 150.

  1. L. Berry, The Child, The State and The Victorian Novel (Charlottesville, 1999), p. 179.

[20] L. M. Shanley, Feminism, Marriage, and the Law in Victorian England (New Jersey, 1989), p. 88.

[21] Thorn, ‘Introduction’, p. 28.

[22] Arnot, ‘The Murder of Thomas Sandles’, p. 150.

[23] J. Kelly, ‘Responding to Infanticide in Ireland, 1680–1820’, in E. Farrell, She said she was in the family way’: Pregnancy and Infancy in Modern Ireland (London, 2012), p. 189.

Fuchs, Gender and Poverty, p. 99.

  1. Andrews and A. Digby (eds.), Sex and Seclusion, Class and Custody: Perspectives on Gender and Class in the History of British and Irish Psychiatry (New York, 2004), p. 109.

[24] Fuchs, Gender and Poverty, p. 100.

For more on motherhood and maternal instincts see: A. Richardson, Love and Eugenics in the Late Nineteenth Century: Rational Reproduction & the New Woman (Oxford, 2003), p. 176.

[25] Thorn, ‘Introduction’, p. 28.

For more on Infanticide law see: L. Rose, Massacre of the Innocents: Infanticide in Great Britain 1800-1939 (Oxford, 2016), p. 77.

[26] Kelly, ‘Responding to Infanticide in Ireland’, p. 189.

[27]  J. A. Sheetz-Nguyen, Victorian Women, Unwed Mothers and the London Foundling Hospital (London, 2012), p. 38

[28] L. C. Berry, ‘Confession and Profession: Adam Bede, Infanticide, and the New Coroner’, in Thorn (ed.), Writing British Infanticide, p. 202.

[29] Higginbotham, ‘Sin of the Age’, p. 331.

[30] Berry, ‘Confession and Profession’, p. 202-03.

[31] Arnot, ‘The Murder of Thomas Sandles’, p. 150.

[32] E. Gordon, and G. Nair, ‘Domestic Fathers and the Victorian Parental Role’, Women’s History Review, 15 (2006), p. 551.

[33] Arnot, ‘The Murder of Thomas Sandles’, p. 150.

[34] S. L. Steinbach, Understanding the Victorians: Politics, Culture and Society in Nineteenth-Century Britain (London, 2012), p. 201.

[35] D’Cruze, Everyday Violence in Britain, p. 57.

[36] P. Hoffer and N.E.H. Hull, Murdering Mothers: Infanticide in England and New England, 1558–1803 (New York, 1981), cited in Thorn, Writing British Infanticide, p. 20.

[37] D. A. Logan, Fallenness in Victorian Women’s Writing: Marry, Stitch, Die, Or Do Worse (Columbia, 1998), p. 18.

[38] Anon., ‘The Case of Infanticide Near Bury St. Edmund’s.’, The Morning Chronicle, 23 October 1851, Issue 26478, in British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.

[39] Kelly, ‘Responding to Infanticide in Ireland’, p. 189.

[40] R. Sauer, ‘Infanticide and Abortion in Nineteenth-Century Britain’, Population Studies, 32 (1978), p. 92.

Andrews and Digby, Sex and Seclusion, p. 109.

See for example: C. Chinn, Poverty amidst Prosperity: The Urban Poor in England 1834-1914 (Lancaster, 2006).

[41] Fuchs, Gender and Poverty, p. 192.

[42] D’Cruze, Everyday Violence, p. 57.

[43] D’Cruze, Everyday Violence in Britain, p. 58.

For more on the link between poverty and insanity see Chapter 6 in A. Gestrich, E. Hurren, and S. King (eds.), Poverty and Sickness in Modern Europe: Narratives of the Sick Poor 1780-1938 (London, 2012).

[44] R. Shoemaker, ‘Male Honour and the Decline of Public Violence in Eighteenth-Century’, Social History, 26 (2001), p. 194.

[45] C. Emsley, Crime and Society in England 1750-1900, 2nd edn (Harlow, 1996), p. 107.

  1. Tosh, Manliness and Masculinities: Nineteenth-Century Britain (Harlow, 2005), p. 130.

[46] M. V. Gregory, ‘“Most revolting murder by a father”: The Violent Rhetoric of Paternal Child-Murder in the Times (London), 1826-1849’, in Thorn (ed.), Writing British Infanticide, p. 71.

[47] G. Frost, ‘“I am master here”: Illegitimacy, Masculinity, and Violence in Victorian England’, in L. Delap, B. Griffin, and A. Wills (eds.), The Politics of Domestic Authority in Britain since 1800 (Basingstoke, 2009), p. 30.

[48] Gregory, ‘Most revolting murder by a father’, p. 72.

[49] Frost, ‘I am master here’, p. 31.

[50] J.M. Ferraro, Nefarious Crimes, Contested Justice: Illicit Sex and Infanticide in the Republic of Venice 1557-1789 (Baltimore, 2008), p. 12.

For more on masculinity see J. Tosh, Manliness and Masculinities, p. 133; H. Sussman, Victorian Masculinities: Manhood and Masculine Poetics in Early Victorian Literature and Art (Cambridge, 1995).

[51] E. Farrell, ‘A most diabolical deed’: Infanticide and Irish Society 1850-1900 (Manchester, 2013), p. 149.

Chinn, Poverty amidst Prosperity, p. 114.

[52] Frost, ‘I am master here’, p. 31.

[53] Jackson, New-Born Child Murder: Women, Illegitimacy and the Courts in Eighteenth-Century England (Manchester, 1996), p. 118.

[54] Shepherd, ‘One of the Best Fathers until He Went Out of His Mind’, p. 21.

[55] Frost, ‘I am master here’, p. 31.

[56] Gregory, ‘Most revolting murder by a father’, p. 72.

[57] Jackson, New-Born Child Murder, p. 118.

[58] D. Rabin, ‘Beyond ‘Lewd Women’ and ‘Wanton Wenches’: Infanticide and Child-Murder in the Long Eighteenth Century’ in Thorn (ed.), Writing British Infanticide, p. 47.

Tosh, Manliness and Masculinities, p. 132.

[59] Marland, ‘Getting Away with Murder’, p. 173.

[60] Frost, ‘I am master here’, p. 39.

[61] W. Hunter, On the Uncertainty of the Signs of Murder in the Case of Bastard Children (London, 1783), p. 6.

[62] A. Cossins, Female Criminality: Infanticide, Moral Panics and The Female Body (New York, 2015) p. 91.

[63] J. McDonagh, Child Murder and British Culture 1720-1900 (Cambridge, 2003), p. 125.

[64] J. Himmill, cited in Farrell, A most diabolical deed, p. 35. Fuchs, Gender and Poverty, p. 57.

[65] A. Clark, ‘Irish Orphans and the Politics of Domestic Authority’ in Delap, Griffin, and Wills (eds.), The Politics of Domestic Authority, p. 71. Fuchs, Gender and Poverty, p. 46.

[66] Cossins, Female Criminality, p. 91.

[67] Anon, ‘The Execution of Mrs Winsor’, in Jackson (ed.), Infanticide.

[68] Gordon and Nair, ‘Domestic Fathers and the Victorian Parental Role’, p. 551.

Tosh, Manliness and Masculinities, p. 108.

[69] Anon, ‘The Execution of Mrs Winsor’.

[70] M. Jackson, ‘The Trial of Harriet Vooght: Continuity and Change in the History of Infanticide’, in Jackson (ed.), Infanticide, p. 10.

[71] Anon., ’Baby Farming’, The Pall Mall Gazette, 25 September 1867, Issue 819, in British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.

[72]  Anon., ‘Baby-Farming Mothers Beware’ (1871), in P. Chassaigne, and W. Heppel, ‘Popular Representations of Crime: The Crime Broadside – A Subculture of Violence in Victorian Britain?’ Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies, 3/2 (1999), pp. 42-43.

[73] Anon., ‘Baby-Farming Mothers Beware’.

[74] E. Farrell, ‘A very immoral establishment’: The Crime of Infanticide and Class Status in Ireland, 1850–1900’, in Farrell (ed.), She said she was in the family way, p. 220.

[75] A. Loughnan, Manifest Madness: Mental Incapacity in the Criminal Law (Oxford, 2012), p. 154.

[76] Hunter, On the Uncertainty of the Signs of Murder, p. 6.

[77] J. Geyer-Kordesch, ‘Infanticide and the Erotic Plot: A Feminist Reading of Eighteenth-Century Crime’, in Jackson (ed.), Infanticide, p. 118.

[78] H. Small, Love’s Madness: Medicine, the Novel, and Female Insanity, 1800-1865 (Oxford, 1996), p. 21.

[79] C. Stebbings, ‘Protecting the Property of the Mentally Ill: The Judicial Solution in Nineteenth Century Lunacy Law’, Cambridge Law Journal, 71/2 (2012), p. 385.

[80] P. Bartlett, The Poor Law of Lunacy: The Administration of Pauper Lunatics in Mid-Nineteenth Century England with Special Emphasis on Leicestershire and Rutland (London, 1993), p. 192.

[81] I. Butler and B. Drakeford, Scandal, Social Policy and Social Welfare (Basingstoke, 2003), p. 22.

  1. Burtinshaw and J. Burt, Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots: A History of Insanity in Nineteenth-Century (Barnsley, 2017), p. 37.

[82] Loughnan, Manifest Madness, p. 154.

Small, Love’s Madness, p. 35.

[83] Loughnan, ‘The “Strange” Case of the Infanticide Doctrine’, p. 687.

Mauger, The Cost of Insanity, p. 155.

[84] T. Chakravarty, ‘Medicalisation of Mental Disorder: Shifting Epistemologies and Beyond’, Sociological Bulletin, 62/2 (2011), p. 21.

Tosh, Manliness and Masculinities, p. 132.

  1. I. Burney, ‘The Politics of Particularism: Medicalization and Medical Reform in Nineteenth-Century Britain’, in R. Bivins and V. J. Pickstone, Medicine, Madness and Social History: Essays in Honour of Roy Porter (Basingstoke, 2007), p. 4

[85] Loughnan, ‘The “Strange” Case of the Infanticide Doctrine’, p. 687.

Small, Love’s Madness, p. 35.

Butler and Drakeford, Scandal, Social Policy and Social Welfare, p. 17.

[86] Marland, ‘Getting Away with Murder’, p. 171.

[87] ASSI 72/04, Murder: Rumsby, Catherine (Infanticide), The National Archives, London (TNA).

[88] TNA, ASSI 72/04, Murder: Rumsby, Catherine (Infanticide).

[89] W. Forbes, ‘On Puerperal Insanity’, Journal of Psychological Medicine and Mental Pathology, 12 (1859), p. 21.

[90] Hunter, On the Uncertainty of the Signs of Murder, p. 5.

See also: K. Busfield, Men, Women and Madness: Understanding Gender and Mental Disorder (Basingstoke, 1996), p. 159.

[91] Cossins, Female Criminality, p. 57.

[92] Cossins, Female Criminality, p. 57.

[93] H. Marland, Dangerous Motherhood Insanity and Childbirth in Victorian Britain (Basingstoke, 2004), p. 4.

[94] Berry, ‘Confession and Profession’, p. 196.

[95] W. R. Burke, Infanticide: Its Law, Prevalence, Prevention, And History (London, 1862), p. 45-46.

[96] Marland, Dangerous Motherhood, p. 3.

[97] Shepherd, Institutionalizing the Insane, p. 9.

[98] Andrews and Digby, Sex and Seclusion, p. 165.

[99] Marland, Dangerous Motherhood, p. 3.

[100] R. Lee, Lectures on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery: Delivered in the Theatre of St. George’s Hospital (London, 1844), cited in Marland, ‘Getting Away with Murder’, p. 175.

[101] Marland, Dangerous Motherhood, p. 5.

[102] Marland, ‘Getting Away with Murder’, p. 175.

[103] Marland, Dangerous Motherhood, p. 4.

For anxieties surrounding puerperal mania see: D. Brunton, Health and Wellness in the 19th Century (Oxford, 2014), p. 142.

[104] T. S. Clouston, Clinical Lectures on Mental Diseases, 2nd edn (London, 1887), p. 502.

[105] J. Reid, ‘On the Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of Puerperal Insanity’, Journal of Psychological Medicine and Mental Pathology, 1 (1848), p. 135. Reid was an author on puerperal insanity who was much cited in forensic texts.

[106] Reid, ‘On the Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of Puerperal Insanity’, p. 135.

[107] ASSI 52/44, Murder: Earle, Rose (Infanticide), TNA.

[108] TNA, ASSI 52/44.

[109] Marland, Dangerous Motherhood, p. 4.

[110] Marland, ‘Getting Away with Murder’, p. 173.

[111] Logan, Fallenness in Victorian Women’s Writing, p. 184.

[112] ASSI 52/43, Murder: Doyle, Bridget (Infanticide), TNA. After extensive research it was not possible to identify what Mrs Doyle meant when referring to Kate Holland.

[113] TNA, ASSI 52/43.

[114] Marland, ‘Getting Away with Murder’, p. 173.

[115] Marland, Dangerous Motherhood, p. 6.

  1. Trowbridge and T. Knowles, Insanity and the Lunatic Asylum in the Nineteenth Century (London, 2015), p. 156.

[116] Marland, ‘Getting Away with Murder’, p. 176.

[117] ASSI 52/20, Murder: Harrison, Mary (Infanticide), TNA.

[118] Marland, Dangerous Motherhood, p. 174.

[119] Marland, ‘Getting Away with Murder’, p. 176.

[120] TNA, ASSI 52/20.

[121] Marland, ‘Getting Away with Murder’, p. 179.

[122] ASSI 36/25/14 Sussex. Accused: F Dolman. Offence: Infanticide, TNA.

[123] Thorn, ‘Introduction’, p. 13.

  1. I. Schwartz and N. Isser, Child Homicide: Parents Who Kill (London, 2007), p. 50.

[124] TNA, ASSI 36/25/14.

[125] D. Sit, A. J. Rothschild, and K. L. Wisner, ‘A Review of Postpartum Psychosis’, Journal of Women’s Health, 15/4 (2002).

[126] S. Mitchell, Victorian Britain: An Encyclopaedia (Oxford, 1998), p. 1.

[127] Fuchs, Gender and Poverty, p. 54.

[128] Thorn, ‘Introduction’, p. 25.

[129] G. K. Behlmer, ‘Deadly Motherhood: Infanticide and Medical Opinion in Mid-Victorian England’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 34/4 (1979), p. 411.

[130] A. Still and I. Velody, ‘Introduction’, in A. Still and I. Velody, Re-Writing the History of Madness Studies in Foucaults ‘Histoire de la folie’ (London, 1992), p. 2.

[131] Stebbings, ‘Protecting he Property of the Mentally Ill’, p. 2.

[132] Loughnan, Manifest Madness, p. 154.

[133] Stebbings, ‘Protecting the Property of the Mentally Ill’, p. 2.

[134] Chakravarty, ‘Medicalisation of Mental Disorder’, p. 21.

[135] Cossins, Female Criminality, p. 57.