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COURSE NAME: "Special Topics in History: The Witch Hunts 1400-1800"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Summer Session I 2013

INSTRUCTOR: Pavlac Brian
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MTWTH 9:00-11:00
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: Junior Standing; Corequisite: EN 110

This course introduces students to the complex problem of witch hunting in Early Modern Europe.  

“She’s a witch!”  From the fifteenth to the eighteenth the centuries, many Europeans might have heard this cry as they developed a heightened fear of witchcraft, seeing a new sect hostile to humanity. Students will learn how early modern Westerners experienced this “Witch Craze,” within the context of other economic, social, and cultural relationships.  Included in this study will be the examination of changing theologies, new technologies and methods of rule in the rise of the modern state, and the roles of class and gender in focusing hostility on certain people, especially women.


Coursework will have some lecture, but mostly will consist of reading, discussion, and writing about primary and secondary sources. Although the syllabus presents the basic content and requirements of this course, the professor reserves the right to change anything (e.g. topics, assignments, due dates, grading policy, etc.) at his discretion.

Objectives for the student: 

      To identify the major events, persons and ideas of the history of 16th-, 17th-, and 18th-century Europe and the West.

      To develop concepts and methods which give an understanding of what influenced the attitudes and behavior of major participants in political situations.

      To read modern editions of primary sources and recent scholarship on witches in order to explain their significance to relevant historical problems.

      To practice critical and analytical skills on historical problems, in particular on the popular understanding of witches and witchcraft. 

      To identify and analyze significant problems and situations as they relate to the current issues and the investigation of history.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Witchcraft in Europe 1400-1700: A Documentary History. Second Edition. Kors, Alan Charles and Edward Peters, ed.University of Pennsylvania Press0-8122-1751-9  
The Witchcraft Reader. Second Edition. Oldridge, Darren, ed. Routledge978-0-415-41565-1  
Witch Hunts in the Western World: Persecution and Punishment from the Inquisition through the Salem TrialsPavlac, Brian A. Bison Books978-0-8032-3290-7  

Class ParticipationYou are required to read the assignments in advance, attend each class with the books, arrive on time, remain attentive, maintain proper classroom decorum, respond to questions, ask questions, and actively participate in any discussion and in-class projects. No electronic devices may be used in class without explicit permission of the professor. No magic, witchcraft, or sorcery of any kind may be used in conjunction with this class, upon penalty of expulsion from and failure of the course.20
Web Simulation ReportYou are to write a two-to-three page long (800-1200 words) report of your own experience of a witch hunt as recreated online5
Oldridge Chapter DiscussionYou are to lead class discussion concerning a Chapter from the Oldridge book and submit a three-to-four page long (1100-1600 words) commentary analyzing the chapter. 20
Primary Source EvaluationYou are to write a three-to-four page long (1100-1600 words) analysis of a primary source, which critically examines a longer work written during the witch hunts.15
QuizzesSeveral short quizzes and in-class projects will be given to help students understand the material. 10
ExamsYou will take one midterm exam and one comprehensive final exam, consisting of short identifications quizzing knowledge of detail and significance, and essays testing your understanding of trends, themes, and theories. 30

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


Participation and attendance in every scheduled class are necessary because lecture and discussion provide the essentials for achieving class goals and objectives.

Absences excused according to the Attendance Policy in the college catalog will not affect a student’s grade, although an Absentee Assignment must be completed.  Unexcused absences will reduce the class participation portion of a student’s grade, with more weight given to more absences. 

The instructor will regularly take attendance.  If you arrive at class late, after attendance is taken, you must personally request that the absence be turned into a tardy mark; otherwise an Absentee Assignment may be required (see below).  Students who need to leave a class early, except for an emergency, should notify the instructor before class begins. 

If you are absent from a class, whether excused or not, you must complete an Absentee Assignment.  You are to write a one-to-one-and-a-half page essay covering that day's reading. The assignment will also count for any missed projects or quizzes.  Deadlines: The assignment(s) should be turned in to the professor at the beginning of the next class after you return.  Students who miss a major exam may only take a replacement according to the Attendance Policy in the college catalog.

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Week 1

Mon             May 20            Orientation and Definitions           

Tue             May 21            Antiquity, Christianity, and Magic

Wed             May 22            Heresy in the Middle Ages

Thu             May 23            The transition to Modernity

Week 2

Mon             May 27            Early Modern Revolutions

Tue             May 28            The Triumph of Reason

Wed             May 29            Begin of the Hunts

Thu             May 30            Malleus Maleficarum

Week 3

Mon             Jun 3            Midterm Exam

Tue             Jun 4            Germany

Wed             Jun 5            Switzerland and Low Countries

Thu             Jun 6            France

Week 4

Mon             Jun 10            Britain

Tue             Jun 11            American Colonies

Wed             Jun 12            Southern Europe

Thu             Jun 13            Northern and Eastern Europe

Week 5

Mon             Jun 17            Begin of the End of the Hunts

Tue             Jun 18            The End of the Hunts

Wed             Jun 19            Modern Witch Hunts

Thu             Jun 20              Review

Fri             Jun 21            Final Exam