Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Undergraduate Course: Popular Religion, Women and Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (DIVI08013)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryAn examination of key aspects of popular religion, culture and elite control during the early modern period in Europe.
Course description Academic Description:
The course will examine key aspects of popular religious culture during the early modern period in Europe which witnessed the transformation of religious life associated with the Protestant and Catholic Reformations. It will deal specifically with religious ideas and devotional practices at a popular level and the changes introduced by both Protestant and Catholic reformers. As part of the spectrum of belief it will examine ideas concerning magic and witchcraft and it will include a study of the witch hunting which swept through Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Throughout the course particular attention will be given to the role of women in churches and society and how they were affected by the religious upheavals of the period. As this course is concerned with a largely non-literate culture it will make extensive use of visual evidence.

Syllabus/Outline Content:
The course will apply historical approaches to popular culture and belief with a strong emphasis on skills for assessing historical evidence. Themes studied will include: what ordinary people may have believed before and after the Protestant and Catholic reformations; the religious roles open to women; the beliefs of Early Modern people about healing and magic; and the explanations that have been offered for early modern witch hunting. Students will become familiar with the work of key historians in the field and also engage with visual sources each week through the use of primary material accessed via digital collections.

Student Learning Experience Information:
The course has two lectures and one tutorial each week. Each week is structured to follow the same pattern of learning, research and discussion. Lecture themes will be introduced using online audio/visual formats, these will be available for self-paced study and will set the scene for the topics covered. Mid-week there will be an opportunity for real-time online interaction with the lecturer and students will also be reading for their tutorial and posting on Learn for 'Image of the Week'. Each week will conclude with live discussion in a tutorial group.

In 'Image of the Week' students will be reviewing a collection of images (visual primary sources). They will each choose one image and assess the ways in which that source reflects the themes of the week. They will then write a short post on Learn arguing why their choice merits the title 'Image of the Week'. Tutorial groups will debate the issues emerging from these posts each week. Students will also be responsible for leading the discussion of the set reading for their tutorial group for one week in the semester and for participating in all discussions.

During the semester the Compare and Review task will allow students to delve more deeply into an area by asking them to contrast and evaluate two short readings on a topic. The semester concludes with a research essay chosen from the list of possible questions. Individual essay planning/advice sessions with the course organiser will be available. Students will demonstrate achievement of the learning outcomes through the assessed weekly posts on Learn, a Compare and Review task (1000 words) and a final essay (2000 words).
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking Popular Religion, Women and Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (ECHS08002)
Other requirements Students who have previously taken the following course MUST NOT enroll: Popular Religion, Women and Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (ECHS08002)
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should usually have at least 1 introductory level Divinity/Religious Studies course at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this) for entry to this course. We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  196
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 11, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 160 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 20% - Image of the week (8 short comments on primary sources c. 150 words each = 1200 words)

30% - Compare and Review mid-course task (1000 words)

50% - Final Essay (2000 words)

The Compare and Review task and the Final Essay must address different sections of the course.
Feedback The introductory sessions in week 1 will provide resources and opportunities to ask questions about coursework. In weeks 2 and 5 tutors will give short written feedback on Image of the Week and your tutor will be able to advise you further about your progress with Image of the Week, if necessary. In week 5 there will be advice in a lecture on the Compare and Review task and an opportunity for advice on plans.

There will be times for individual appointments with Dr Murray to discuss research and plans for the final essay in weeks 9, 10 and 11 for those who would like them.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate knowledge of beliefs and religious practices in the context of early modern Europe.
  2. Construct historical explanations and arguments drawing appropriate geographical, temporal, gender and social comparisons.
  3. Show an appreciation of the issues raised in the debates concerning popular religion, the Reformation process, witch hunting and the role of women during the early modern period and an ability to critique the views found in secondary literature.
  4. Interpret historical evidence, in particular visual material.
Reading List
There is a full Resource List for this course accessed via LEARN. The tutorial texts (available on LEARN) are essential preparation for the weekly tutorials and also contain background reading for each week. The different assessment options each have their own bibliography. If you would like further advice on reading please speak to your lecturer.

Suggestions for general and background reading:
If you have not studied Christianity before it is strongly recommended that you familiarize yourself with key concepts and terminology by reading an introduction such as:

Linda Woodhead, Christianity: a Very Short Introduction (2014) available online from the university library. If you are new to this period, or would like to refresh your knowledge with a single volume, you could try Henry Kamen, Early Modern European Society (2000).

There is no single textbook for this course. The works below are reliable overviews for periods and topics - for a more detailed bibliography see Resource List.

The Ashgate Research Companion to Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe. 2013 Ashgate. Couchman, Jane, Allyson M. Poska and Katherine A McIver ed.

The Cambridge History of Christianity: Vol. 6: Reform and Expansion 1500-1660. 2008. Vol. Cambridge histories online. Cambridge University Press. Hsia, R. Po-chia ed.

The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America. 2013. Vol. Oxford handbooks. Oxford University Press. Levack, Brian P.ed.

The Reformation World. 2000. London; New York: Routledge. Pettegree, Andrew ed.

Other works:
Ankarloo, Bengt and Gustav Henningsen, Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries. 1993. Vol. Clarendon paperbacks. Clarendon Press.

Bireley, Robert. 1999. The Refashioning of Catholicism, 1450-1700: a Reassessment of the Counter Reformation. Vol. European history in perspective. Macmillan.

Bossy, John. 1985. Christianity in the West 1400-1700. Vol. OPUS. Oxford University Press.

Briggs, Robin. 2002. Witches and Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft. Blackwell.

Clark, Stuart. 1999. Thinking with Demons: the Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe / Stuart Clark. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Goodare, Julian. 2016. The European Witch-Hunt Julian Goodare. London: Routledge.

Hsia, R. Po-chia. 1989. Social Discipline in the Reformation: Central Europe 1550-1750. Vol. Christianity and society in the modern world. Routledge.

---. 1998. The World of Catholic Renewal, 1540-1770. Vol. New approaches to European history. Cambridge University Press.

Levack, Brian P. 1995. The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe. Longman.

---. 2016. The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe. Fourth edition. London; New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Lindberg, Carter. 2010. The European Reformations / Carter Lindberg. Second edition. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Matheson, Peter. 2007. Reformation Christianity. Vol. A people's history of Christianity. Fortress Press.

Maxwell-Stuart, P. G. 2001. Witchcraft in Europe and the New World, 1400-1800. Palgrave.

Monter, E. William. 1983. Ritual, Myth and Magic in Early Modern Europe. Vol. Pre-industrial Europe 1350-1850. Harvester.

R. W. Scribner (Robert W). 1987. Popular Culture and Popular Movements in Reformation Germany. London: Hambledon.

Scarre, Geoffrey. 2001. Witchcraft and Magic in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe. Geoffrey Scarre and John Callow. Edited by John Callow. 2nd edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Swanson, R. N. 1995. Religion and Devotion in Europe, c. 1215-c. 1515. Vol. Cambridge medieval textbooks. Cambridge University Press.

Wilson, Stephen. 2000. The Magical Universe: Everyday Ritual and Magic in Pre-Modern Europe. Hambledon & London.

Wiesner, Merry E. 2019. Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe. 4th edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Ability to gather, evaluate and synthesise different types of information
- Analytical ability and the capacity to formulate questions and solve problems
- Writing skills, including clear expression and citing relevant evidence
- Ability to engage critically with the meaning of documents and recognise that meanings may be multiple
KeywordsWomen,Witchcraft,Christianity,1450-1750,popular religion
Course organiserDr Kirsty Murray
Tel: (0131 6)50 8900
Course secretaryMr Patrick McMurray
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information