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Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780719561214

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By the spring of 1645, civil war had exacted a terrible toll upon England. Disease was rife, apocalyptic omens appeared in the skies, and idolators detected in every shire. In a remote corner of Essex, two obscure gentlemen began interrogating women suspected of witchcraft, triggering the most brutal witch-hunt in English history.

Witchfinders is a spellbinding study of how Matthew Hopkins, ‘the Witchfinder General’, and John Stearne extended their campaign across East Anglia, driven by godly zeal. Exploiting the anxiety and lawlessness of the times, and cheered on by ordinary folk, they extracted confessions of satanic pacts resulting in scores of executions.

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Reviews

Gives the ordinary reader a visceral sense of mid-seventeenth-century England ... satisfyingly complex
Selina O'Grady, Literary Review
Very highly recommended
The Cauldron
an 'evocative travelogue...setpieces of rich description'
TLS
Gaskill has become an expert on the Great British witch-hunt ... a completely readable non-fiction book on a gripping subject.'
Suffolk Journal, Norfolk Journal, The Essex Magazi
The incessant peculiarity of the accusations could easily make the stories told in this book seem quaint rather than horrific. But Gaskill avoids this trap by describing each case in a vivid manner, making one aware at all times of the human tragedy. His description of a hanging, for instance could leave no reader unmoved
Craig Brown, Book of the Week, Mail on Sunday
It is a riveting subject, engagingly told, and worth a read.
Catholic Herald
The book is a timely warning for those who think that witch trials are a matter of history.
The Times
This is a terrible tale marvellously told ... This is how history should be known.
the oldie
He's a very lucid and human writer, very good at setting the social context, helping you understand how the phenomenon of witchfinders came out of the dislocation of the civil war.
Independent on Sunday
Gaskill tells the story of the witch-hunt in full and accurate detail, for the first time, and with uncommon skill ... His book is both a solid contribution to knowledge and a splendid example of history as gripping literature
Ronald Hutton, Independent
Malcolm Gaskill patiently untangles the history of East Anglian witchcraft
Guardian
'Lucid and humane'
Hilary Mantel
Written with sympathy, respect and deep human understanding.
The Sunday Times
Wonderfully detailed, well-written and judicious ... tragic yet fascinating
Daily Telegraph
A must ... a lucid companion piece to the classic horror movie Witchfinder General.
Guardian
A brilliant new study ... In the vivid three-dimensionality of its dramatis personae, the eloquence of its writing, and the richness of its evocations of vanished worlds of landscape and belief ... Gaskill displays a masterly wizardry all his own
John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph
'A splendid example of history as gripping literature.'
Independent
'Fascinating'
Daily Mail
'Superb, chilling' - Alastair Sooke
Daily Telegraph
'A sophisticated examination of East Anglia's mania in the 1640s' - Rosemary Goring
Glasgow Herald
'A chilling history of the witch-trials'
History Today
'A fascinating history of the infamous witch-hunts and their main protagonist, Matthew Hopkins. This book is easily labelled as essential for anyone with an interest in the macabre... less obviously, it's also a good expose (and timely reminder) of how large-scale tragedies can occur once the right mix of circumstances are present'
Irish Times
'[Gaskill's] meticulously researched book paints a vivid picture of a horrific period in English history and its causes'
Lucy Land, Essex Life & Countryside