Art history, Ethnography, Historical Anthropology, History, Legal history, Religion

Co-funded by the Open Society University Network (OSUN).


Course date

20 July - 25 July, 2021
Application for this course is closed.
Course Director(s): 

Fabrizio Conti

Department of History and Humanities, John Cabot University, Rome, Italy

Gabor Klaniczay

Department of Medieval Studies, Central European University, Vienna, Austria/ Budapest, Hungary
Course Faculty: 

Michael Bailey

Department of History, Ames, Iowa State University, USA

Marina Montesano

Department of Ancient and Modern Civilizations, Università di Messina, Italy

Teo Ruiz

Department of History, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA

Rita Voltmer

Department of History, Universität Trier, Germany

Beliefs in witchcraft are widely distributed both geographically and chronologically. At the European level, the accusations were put together within a coherent intellectual framework of reference. This is indeed part of a wider process of formation of scapegoat images on social targets such as the leper, the Jew, and the heretic, before getting to witches. All this, along with the late medieval construction of the concept of the witches’ Sabbath, require a multidisciplinary way of approach as well as an open-minded sight in order to be historically contextualized and discussed.

Course rationale and aims


This course aims to lay out the rise and downturn of witch-beliefs in medieval and early modern Europe, tracing the multifaceted roots leading to their construction, from the Classical Greek and Roman literary traditions, to medieval lore and popular beliefs, up to the outburst of the “witch-craze” in early modern Europe. Particular emphasis will be given to the analysis of primary sources, the discussion of modern methodological approaches, and the instruments and places for research. Issues such as the gendering of witchcraft and male domination, along with the consideration of the various social, cultural, literary, legal, religious, economic, climatic aspects involved in determining the outbreak of the witch-craze, will contribute to foster reflection and discussion on topics that are relevant in the historical debate as well as in social practice. Among these, the process of stereotyping and scapegoating, the construction of identities, and ultimately, how socio-cultural categories can give shape to historical realities, which, in turn, can have an impact on the life of groups and individuals. 

Online course format 


Time zones: 9:30 AM EST / 3:30 PM CET  

Expected time commitment per day:

There are 4 sessions per day, every session lasts 60 minutes and has a mixed lecture/seminar format, with a 10 min break after each session. Office hours are also offered.  

Type of activities:

The course will combine asynchronous elements (readings to be done and/or online video materials to be watched before each session), and synchronous sessions (lectures, discussions, students' presentations).

The Zoom platform will be used for synchronous sessions.