Seminar: The Witch Hunts 1400-1800

(3 Credits)
Syllabus Fall 2015
(For more courses on the witch hunts, click here).

Prof. Pavlac
Office: Hafey-Marian 307
  Office Hours: tOffice hours: MW 1:45-3:30 pm
TT 8:30-915 am
and by appointment.
Tel: (570) 208-5900, ext. 5748

Tuesday&Thursday 9:30-10:45
Hafey-Marion 301

 Witch Hunt Main Page | Witch Hunt Simulation | Timeline | Topics 

 Grading Policy | Paper Presentation

I. Description

"She's a witch!"  was a cry heard from the fifteenth to the eighteenth the centuries, when many Europeans developed a heightened concern with the phenomenon of witchcraft, seeing a new sect hostile to humanity.  The end of the Middle Ages and the religious Reformation increased the intensity of the "Witch Craze."  Finally, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment brought an end to the hunt for powers that did not empirically exist.  Through reading and discussion of primary and secondary sources, you will learn how these Europeans defined and treated their alleged witches, within the context of other economic, social, and cultural relationships. Included in this study will be the examination of 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. 

II. Purpose

This is a History Major, European course.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Students will develop and apply knowledge of major historical subjects, themes, and concepts.
  2. Students will critically engage sources and assess historiographical arguments.
  3. Students will illustrate participation in historical conversations by producing original scholarship.

In addition to the more content related objectives described above, this course has some general liberal learning goals. Successful completion of this course is expected to help improve your ability

III. General Requirements

A. Academic Integrity.

Review the academic honesty policy concerning cheating and plagiarism, differing levels of violations, and your moral, ethical, and legal obligation only to submit work completed by you yourself. (click here for more information from the Student Handbook <http://www.kings.edu/non_cms/pdf/StudentHandbook.pdf#page=45>).  Also see <Help stop Plagiarism!>.

B. Reading:

The readings are intended to provide you with important factual and background information before class, a basis for discussion during class, and to be used as review and reference works afterwards.

Please obtain the following textbooks:

You will also be reading from Pavlac, Brian A. The WITCH HUNTS (A.D. 1400-1800), Prof. Pavlac's Women's History Resource Site (July 6, 2006). URL: <http://brianpavlac.org/witchhunts/> and other handouts as provided.

Before class, you will read  according to the class schedule, below. In all of your classes, you should prudently mark up, underline, highlight, and otherwise annotate your texts as you study. For this class, you are required to do so.
You should critique the textbooks as you study. While you are reading, use one or more highlighters or pens to mark up portions of the texts. You might use marks similar to those used by the professor in his assessment of your own assignments, found here. You might consider different colors for (a) historical facts, terms, dates, (b) important points or details, or (c) key explanatory phrases and sentences (d) significant quotes or lines. You might write comments in the margins about the following points:

Carefully reading and noting texts is so important that the instructor applies two methods of evaluation:
First, quizzes may be given. Quizzes are usually open book, so you may copy your answers from your notes onto the quiz sheet. Use your own words: language similar to the texts may be plagiarism.
Second, you are required to turn in your textbooks at exams; then the instructor will evaluate how well you have marked it up and answered review questions.

Bring your those textbooks or print-outs from the web to class that are on that day's schedule. Ask questions about about your texts. We will discuss them. After class, regularly through the semester, you should review your class notes and compare them with the texts.

If you have a used textbook that has been already marked up or an electronic version of the textbook, or some other problem with obtaining a textbook, see the instructor within the first two weeks of classes so that solutions can be found for your use of the textbook and subsequent evaluation.

C. Class Participation & Attendance:

Participation and attendance are necessary because lecture and discussion provide the essentials for achieving class goals and objectives. Thus a portion of your grade (about 25%) will depend on your in-class performance, aside from graded quizzes, exams, and papers. You are required to attend each class, arrive on time, remain attentive, maintain proper classroom decorum, respond to questions, and participate in discussion and small-group activities.

You are encouraged to take notes and ask questions. Some class material will examine explicit issues of sex and violence.  Students are expected to be informed about significant current events, to enable mature engagement with the relevance of our society's past to present problems and controversies.

During class electronic devices may only be used for tasks and information relevant to the classroom activity and may not distract you or other students. Only with the instructor's permission may class be recorded, only to be used for your own study, and the recordings must be erased after the final exam.

Any student who has a learning disability, physical handicap, and/or any other possible impediment to class participation and requirements (whether vetted by the Academic Skills Center or not) should meet with the instructor within the first two weeks of classes to establish available accommodations.

If, at some point during the semester, you must discontinue the course, whether due to poor performance, illness, or some other cause, be sure to follow proper procedures for withdrawal through the Registrar.

No magic, witchcraft, or sorcery of any kind may be used in conjunction with this class, upon penalty of expulsion from and failure of this course.  

D. Absence Policy:

Since participation and class attendance are necessary, if you miss a class you must complete an Absentee Assignment (see below) so that the instructor may evaluate whether some learning has taken place (see below).
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 (see below) may be required. Students who need to leave a class early, except for an emergency, should notify the instructor before class begins.

Missing a class falls into two categories, excused or unexcused, either of which requires submission of an Absentee Assignment (see below).

1. Excused absences are due to college activities, an emergency, or extended illness. They require a notification by the appropriate College official (coach, director, etc.). If you know in advance, you should consult with the instructor about making up/turning in missed work; otherwise contact the instructor as soon as possible after your return. They should have no negative impact upon your grade.

2. All other absences, for whatever reasons, are unexcused, but do not require any written documentation. More than a few will lower the class participation portion of your grade.

After any absence, you are also responsible for requesting any hand-outs and already-returned assignments from the instructor, or borrowing notes from other students.
If you miss any quizzes and/or class projects due to an excused absence, you may make them up with the explicit permission of the instructor, who may require any equivalent assignment. 
If you miss an exam, you do not need to complete an Absentee Assignment, but contact the instructor as soon as possible to schedule a make-up for the exam. You may take a missed exam only at the discretion of the instructor.

A few unexcused absences or a make-up exam should not significantly lower your grade.  Always, your health is your first priority. If you are sick, stay away from class, and seek proper treatment and rest before returning to class.

E. Absentee Assignment:

Since participation and class attendance are necessary, if you miss a class you must complete an Absentee Assignment so that the instructor may evaluate whether some learning has taken place.
For an Absentee Assignment, you are to write a no-more-than-one page essay (in proper presentation format) covering that day's reading or discussion topic.
These papers are ungraded, without points, and not returned; yet failure to complete Absentee Assignments will significantly lower your grade, perhaps resulting in failure of the course.
Deadlines: The assignment(s) should be turned in to the instructor at the beginning of the next class after you return.

F. Exams:

You will take one midterm exam and one final exam, which is comprehensive, as assigned during finals week.

Both exams will consist of short identifications quizzing knowledge of detail and significance, and essays testing your understanding of the course material through logical presentation of facts and explanation of historical trends.


A. Class Discussion:

As mentioned above, a significant part of the class will involve discussion. To be properly prepared for discussion requires you to read and mark up the texts assigned for that day according to the class schedule. The Pavlac text and introductory sections of Oldridge and K&P provide context and background. Of particular interest are the secondary sources in Oldridge and primary sources in K&P. When reading these sources, you should think about and try to answer (in notes or comments written in your textbooks) the following questions:



A short, in-class, open-book quiz may be given to encourage reading.

B. Witch Hunt Web Simulation report:
Your are to write a three-page report of your own experience of a witch hunt.
Simulations create a learning experience drawn from a game format as an alternative to other forms of learning. This particular simulation presents the challenge of making choices faced by the victims of the original witch hunts. You can learn something about the structure of a hunt as well as the consequences of particular choices in that situation.

  1. On a computer with internet access go to A Witch Hunt: Germany 1628 URL: <http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/witch/hunt/>.
     Read the instructions page and begin the hunt simulation.
  2. As you proceed, take notes on any key turning points, choices you made that led to particular consequences.
  3. Answer the questions at the end of the hunt.
  4. Retake the hunt at least once, making different choices at particular places and note the different consequences.
  5. Write a two-page report on your experiences with the hunt. You should explain in detail about why you made the choices you did, and what happened as a result, and what was different, or not, when you made different choices. On a third page, include your responses to the questions at the end of the hunt.
  6. Turn in your final draft in proper presentation format, due according to the class schedule.

C. Book Annotation:
You are to write one book annotation, one paragraph long (160-210 words), which critically analyzes a scholarly work concerning historical witchcraft.
Books are basic tools for gaining historical knowledge. Considering the vast number of books published each year, it is difficult for any historian to keep abreast of new research. Book annotations provide a convenient way for anyone, scholar and student alike, to learn the value of a particular book. In this exercise you will manage information, evaluate different historical opinions, analyze arguments, organize your thoughts and present them in a clear written form. These will be used to help build and expand upon the Women's History Research site, and its Witch Hunt pages.  

  1. Find a scholarly book on historical witches and/or the witch hunts not listed on the Annotated Bibliography page of the Witch Hunts website <http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/witch/witchbib.html>. Selection is due at the latest on September 22. Before class on that date, see the professor during office hours or by appointment with a copy of the book to get explicit, written permission.
  2. Carefully read and/or skim the book. An annotation both describes and critically analyzes a book; it not only summarizes contents, but evaluates the author's thesis, methodology, organization, use of sources, and presentation. What is new or unique to this book? For more information, see Library Research Guide URL: <http://kings.libguides.com/annotations>.
  3. Consult other printed, scholarly book reviews, since you need to be familiar with interpretations and perspectives. To find book reviews see Library Research Guide URL: <http://kings.libguides.com/BookReviews>. You must attach to your written review copies of two other book reviews you have read concerning your book. If you cannot find reviews of the book itself, find reviews of some book mentioned in your book's text and/or bibliography--be sure to consult the instructor on this matter.
  4. Write your book annotation, which should be a good paragraph long, between 150 and 200 words. Write for someone who knows something of the history of witches and wants to know how this book contributes to the field of knowledge. Be sure to clearly differentiate between the author's points and your own. Include the historiographical position of the author, such as where the author stands on any of the 10 Origins of the Witchhunts. Remember all sources require full, Turabian/Chicago format citations.
  5. Rest, review, revise.
  6. Turn in your final draft in proper presentation format, due as assigned on the class schedule.
  7. After the instructor has evaluated and returned your annotation, revise it and then e-mail the revised version to the professor to be part of the Women's History Site, according to the class schedule.

E. Hammer of Witches Worksheet:
You are to answer questions regarding the Witch Hunt manual, The Hammer of Witches.
This book marks one of the key developments in witch hunting.  Understanding its basic content is essential to comprehending the phenomenon of witch hunting.

You will find the answers and fill them out on a study guide sheet provided by the instructor.  You do not have to read the entire work, although you may.  Due according to the class schedule.


F. Historiographical Essay of Primary Source

You are to write an historiographical essay of a primary source, five-six pages long, which critically examines scholarship on a particular source of the witch hunts.
Building on the work of previous scholars advances our historical knowledge. In this exercise you will manage information, carefully read secondary sources, evaluate different historical opinions, analyze arguments, organize your thoughts and present them in a clear written form.


  1. Select a primary source from the list posted on the door of Rm 307 Hafey-Marian beginning on October 20 or from another source upon consultation with and written permission by the professor, bringing a photocopy of the entry about the source from Golden, Richard M., editor. Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: the Western Tradition. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006; in the Corgan Library: REF 133.4 En19E. Final Selection due according to the class schedule.
  2. Research other tertiary, secondary, and primary sources about your hunt. Be sure to use the K&P (if your source is in it or mentioned by others) and other course texts. Be sure to use at least eight scholarly secondary sources (books and articles) that comment on the source.
  3. The first two pages should describe the source in some detail. The rest of your essay should be your analysis of the scholarship by historians about the importance of the source for understanding the historical development of the witch hunts. Write for someone who knows something of the history of witches and wants to know scholarly views of how this hunt contributes to the overall body of knowledge.
  4. Rest, review, revise.
  5. Turn in your final draft in proper presentation format, due according to the class schedule.

G. Mock Witch Trial Simulation:

We will carry out an acted simulation of a witch trial in class, as assigned on the class schedule.
A simulation provides a different way to learn by doing and experiencing matters covered through reading, discussion, and writing. The student should come away with a different appreciation for the course material.
Instructions will be handed out as the time for the trial approaches. Methods and procedures from The Hammer of Witches shall be used, so be attentive to that material.   You will write a three-page evaluation of the experience, due according to the class schedule.

Deadlines: Meeting deadlines is an important aspect of assignments.  Papers should be handed in to the instructor, by you yourself, at the beginning of class on the due dates assigned or e-mailed by the proper time.
The grade of any assignment you turn in late will lose at least 10% after the beginning of the first class, 20% after the second, and 35% after the third.
No late papers will be accepted after the last day of class. For general information about presentation and writing of papers click here.

IV. Grades:

You earn your grade through work done for this course.  You are responsible to understand why you have achieved a certain grade and what you can do to maintain or improve your grade.  You are encouraged to consult with the professor during office hours or by appointment both before and after exams and written assignments. 

For your protection, in case of errors of recording, you should keep copies of all exams and assignments until you have received official notice of your final grade.  Any and all materials done for this course may become the property of the professor, who may use them for assessment, evaluative, scholarly, or research purposes. 

Click here for a Grading Policy with more information on the parameters of evaluation and grading. For more information on grades, see your Student Handbook and the college catalog.

Your final grade will be based on a percentage (above 90%=A, 89%- 80%=B, etc.) of the sum of the following points:

Class Discussion (250); Report on Witch Web Simulation (25); Book Annotation (75); Hammer of Witches Worksheet (35); Midterm Exam (100); Historiographical Essay on Primary Source (100); Report on Mock Trial Simulation (50); Final Exam (150)

V. Class Schedule and "Topics:

Should the College cancel classes, or have a compressed schedule, still do the work according to the schedule, until otherwise instructed by the instructor.  Meeting time under the compressed schedule is 11:00-11:50 am.

date topic   readings
Sep 1 Orientation   -
Sep 3 Week 1
  Pavlac 1-7;  Oldridge 1-17;  <http://www.brianpavlac.org/witchhunts/werrors.html>; <http://www.brianpavlac.org/witchhunts/wtheories.html> Print the web pages out and bring them to class.
Sep 8 Antiquity, Christianity and Magic  

Pavlac 8-16; Oldridge Ch 9; K&P pp. 1-42, #2, #3, #5, #44 (pp. 280-287)

Sep 10  Heresy in the Middle Ages  

Pavlac 16-17; Oldridge pp. 19-22, Ch 1, Ch 2; K&P #11, #14, #19, #20, #21, #22

Witch Hunt Web Simulation report due
Sep 15 Week 3
End of the Middle Ages
  Pavlac 17-18; Oldridge Ch 3; K&P #23, #24, #25
Sep 17 Renaissance   Pavlac 18-20; Oldridge pp. 87-91, Ch 5, Ch 13, Ch 20; K&P #36
Sep 22 Reformation  

Pavlac 20-21; Oldridge pp. 131-135, Ch 14, Ch 15, Ch 16; K&P #40, #41, #42; Selection for Book Annotation due

Sep 24 Scientific Revolution & Enlightenment  

Pavlac 21-24; Oldridge pp. 165-169, 301-304, Ch 7, Ch 17, Ch 19; K&P #61

Sep 29 Week 5 
Sex & Gender
  Oldridge pp. 247-252, Ch 25, Ch 26, Ch 31
Oct 1 Formation of the Hunts  

Pavlac 25-45; K&P #26,#28

Oct 6 Week 6
Begin of the Hunts
  Pavlac 45-50; K&P #27, #29, #30; Book Annotation Due
Oct 8     Review
Oct 13 Week 7
Midterm Exam
  Break   -
Oct 20 Week 8
Malleus Maleficarum
  Whole text; Oldridge Ch 4; K&P #61; Malleus Worksheet Due
Oct 22  Malleus Maleficarum   Selection of Primary Source Due
Oct 27 Week 9
  Pavlac 51-71; Oldridge Ch 8, 10, 21, 24, 32; K&P #44, #47, #53, #54, #55
Oct 29 Halloween Eve Eve   -
Nov 3 Week 10
  <http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/witch/lemp.html> Print the web page out and bring it to class.
Selection of Primary Source for Historiographical Essay Due
Nov 5 Switzerland and the Low Countries   Pavlac 71-82;  K&P #50, #52, #57, #62
Nov 10 Week 11
  Pavlac 83-107; Oldridge pp. 205-209, Ch 23, Ch 30; K&P #45, #49, #56
Nov 12  Britain   Pavlac 109-134; Oldridge Ch 6, Ch 22, Ch 28, Ch 29; K&P #46, #48, #59; Revised Book Annotation Due
Nov 17 Week 12
The American Colonies
  Pavlac 134-147; Oldridge Ch 27; K&P #58, #67
Nov 19 Southern Europe   Pavlac 149-172; Oldridge Ch 11, Ch 18; K&P #35, #43, #63
Nov 24 Week 13
Northern and Eastern Europe
  Pavlac 173-186; Oldridge Ch 12
  Break   -
Dec 1 Week 14  

Mock Witch Trial Simulation

Dec 3 End of the Hunts   Pavlac 187-197; Oldridge pp. 337-340, Ch 33, Ch 34, Ch 35, Ch 36; K&P #60, #65, #66, #69
Dec 8 Week 15 Modern Witch Hunts  

Oldridge Ch 36, Ch 37, Ch 38; Historiographical Essay on Primary Source Due

Dec 10 last class   Report on Mock Trial Simulation due
Dec 17

 Witch Hunt Main Page | Witch Hunt Simulation | Timeline | Topics 

Grading Policy | Paper Presentation

Although the syllabus presents the basic content and requirements of the course, the professor reserves the right to change anything (e.g. assignments, point values, topics, due dates, grading policy, etc.), at any time, at his discretion.  


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Last Revision: 2015 November 3