10 books like Witch-Hunting in Scotland

By Brian P. Levack,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Witch-Hunting in Scotland. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Witch Hunting and Witch Trials

By C L'Estrange Ewen,

Book cover of Witch Hunting and Witch Trials

This was the book that got me started over thirty years ago, and which I still turn to today. It’s an absolute mine of information, specifically relating to the written indictments for witchcraft which survive in great numbers for the Home Assize Circuit – that is, the courts that heard felonies in south-eastern England.

Ewen doesn’t provide much in the way of analysis. There is a substantial, very useful, introduction, but the really incredible thing about this book is how Ewen managed to comb through the archives, then held in the Public Records Office in London, and find almost all of the witchcraft indictments hidden there. He was an amazing researcher, who provided raw data for subsequent generations of historians.

Among many findings that can be drawn from his research are that, outside the peculiar spike in trials in the mid-1640s (the subject of my book, Witchfinders), English witch-trials peaked…

Witch Hunting and Witch Trials

By C L'Estrange Ewen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Witch Hunting and Witch Trials as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1929, the author presents a formidable collection of facts, brought together in a scholarly manner. This is an examination of the general history of witchcraft, its changing laws and legal procedures, as well as methods of interrogation and punishment. This book must be considered an essential reference work for every student of witch lore.


Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England

By Alan Macfarlane,

Book cover of Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England

Originally published in 1970, this was another foundational text for me and other witchcraft scholars of my generation.

It grew out of Macfarlane’s doctoral thesis focusing on Essex, which had been supervised by Keith Thomas, whose own great book, Religion and the Decline of Magic (much of which dealt with witches), came out the following year. Even then, the historian Macfarlane was on his way to becoming an anthropologist – a transition visible on every page of this fascinating book.

But its overriding character is that of a work of sociology. Social science models helped to impose interpretative order on the kind of archival information dug up by C. L’Estange Ewen, and connected a rise in witchcraft accusations to a number of strains in late-sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century English life, especially economic strains.

Although their interpretations differ in substance and emphasis, Macfarlane and Thomas are still associated with a paradigm…

Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England

By Alan Macfarlane,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a classic regional and comparative study of early modern witchcraft. The history of witchcraft continues to attract attention with its emotive and contentious debates. The methodology and conclusions of this book have impacted not only on witchcraft studies but the entire approach to social and cultural history with its quantitative and anthropological approach. The book provides an important case study on Essex as well as drawing comparisons with other regions of early modern England.
The second edition of this classic work adds a new historiographical introduction, placing the book in context today.


Witches and Neighbours

By Robin Briggs,

Book cover of Witches and Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft

Whether or not, as Tip O’Neill said, all politics are local, all witchcraft accusations certainly are. Briggs has dug deeply into the archives of various Lorraine villages to unearth an astounding variety of beliefs about magic, sexuality, neighborliness, and social order—all tied to the phenomenon of the witch craze. Like Roper, he gets at the emotional, even therapeutic, impulses behind accusations that lead people in small face-to-face societies to turn on each other.  It’s certainly weird and disturbing, but not always in the ways we have come to expect. Sometimes difficult to obtain in the U.S., but worth the pursuit.

Witches and Neighbours

By Robin Briggs,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Witches and Neighbours as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Witches and Neighbours is a highly original and unconventional analysis of a fascinating historical phenomenon. Unlike other studies of the subject which focus on the mechanisms of persecution, this book presents a rich picture of witchcraft as an all-pervasive aspect of life in early modern Europe. Robin Briggs combines recent research with his own investigations to produce a brilliant and compelling account of the central role of witchcraft in the past. Although the history of witchcraft can only be studied through records of persecutions, these reveal that trials were unusual in everyday life and that witchcraft can be viewed as…


Witch Craze

By Lyndal Roper,

Book cover of Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany

A truly innovative and fascinating psychological perspective on the imaginative workings behind early modern witchcraft cases. It’s common knowledge that women were much more likely than men to be accused, but Roper shows us that it’s not always for the reasons we suspect. Written in sparkling prose by one of the world’s preeminent experts on the subject and illustrated by numerous arresting images.

Witch Craze

By Lyndal Roper,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Witch Craze as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A powerful account of witches, crones, and the societies that make them

From the gruesome ogress in Hansel and Gretel to the hags at the sabbath in Faust, the witch has been a powerful figure of the Western imagination. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries thousands of women confessed to being witches-of making pacts with the Devil, causing babies to sicken, and killing animals and crops-and were put to death. This book is a gripping account of the pursuit, interrogation, torture, and burning of witches during this period and beyond.

Drawing on hundreds of original trial transcripts and other rare…


Strongholds of the Picts

By Angus Konstam, Peter Dennis (illustrator),

Book cover of Strongholds of the Picts: The Fortifications of Dark Age Scotland

I’ve spent some time in the north of Scotland and became intrigued by the remains of Pictish forts on hilltops and by the sea. This book doesn’t provide many answerswritten records before 900 AD are few and the archaeology is confusedKonstam’s conclusion is "the main benefit of any visit to one of these sites is to be able to stand on the same hilltop or promontory, and to imagine what it might have looked like in the days of the Picts." Which explains why legends and stories have grown up about castlesimagining has been key to making sense of such imposing features in the landscape, when often their real history has been forgotten over time.

Konstam’s book is one of a series, and if your curiosity is about a different sort of castle it’s worth checking it out.

Strongholds of the Picts

By Angus Konstam, Peter Dennis (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Strongholds of the Picts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This concise guide actually covers not just Pictish fortifications, but all those in use in early medieval Scotland, including those of Strathclyde and Rheged and of the Dal Riata. Konstam introduces the reader to the principal types of fort, including the re-use of earlier defences, before offering more in-depth surveys of Dundurn and Dunadd. As well as architecture and construction he looks at the use of the forts in war and peace, to control the landscape and act as royal strong points.


A Kind of Spark

By Elle McNicoll,

Book cover of A Kind of Spark

This book is gripping. From the first sentence I was hooked as the autistic heroine showed me what life is like when no one understands you. When no one thinks like you. And when almost everyone underestimates you. I have learned so much from this book and am grateful for it. I love Addie. I love how empathetic she is as she campaigns for a memorial for the accused witches executed by her village centuries earlier. And I love her passion for sharks and her desire for them to live free and natural lives. I am certain that she would not visit aquariums because she knows how cruel captivity is. She is a bright, brave soul and I highly recommend that you read her story.

A Kind of Spark

By Elle McNicoll,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Kind of Spark as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Perfect for readers of Song for a Whale and Counting by 7s, a neurodivergent girl campaigns for a memorial when she learns that her small Scottish town used to burn witches simply because they were different.

"A must-read for students and adults alike." -School Library Journal, Starred Review
 
Ever since Ms. Murphy told us about the witch trials that happened centuries ago right here in Juniper, I can’t stop thinking about them. Those people weren’t magic. They were like me. Different like me.
 
I’m autistic. I see things that others do not. I hear sounds that they can ignore. And…


Maggie & Me

By Damian Barr,

Book cover of Maggie & Me

A young boy, already knowing he’s gay, is growing up in a Scottish slum. The rest of the household consists of people who are drunk, violent, and unemployed. Then, watching the TV, tiny Damian sees Margaret Thatcher, the then British Prime Minister, emerging from the smoke and destruction caused by the IRA’s bombing of the 1984 Conservative Party Conference. Maggie doesn’t have a hair out of place. This little ill-treated boy, sitting on his filthy couch, thinks: “If only she could come here, she’d sort this lot out....” Maggie & Me is so fresh, unlikely, and hilarious, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t be moved by the story.

Maggie & Me

By Damian Barr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Maggie & Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A unique, tender and witty memoir of surviving the tough streets of small town Scotland during the Margaret Thatcher years ________________________ 'Shocking and funny in equal measure, and will have you weeping with laughter and sorrow' Independent on Sunday 'A work of stealthy genius' Maggie O'Farrell 'Certain memoirs catch a moment and seem to define it, bottle it ... hugely entertaining' Sunday Times It's 12 October 1984. An IRA bomb blows apart the Grand Hotel in Brighton. Miraculously, Margaret Thatcher survives. In small-town Scotland, eight-year-old Damian Barr watches in horror as his mum rips her wedding ring off and packs…


Britain in Revolution

By Austin Woolrych,

Book cover of Britain in Revolution: 1625-1660

This is an integrated and detailed account of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms across Britain and Ireland, the English Republic and the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. It is written in an engaging and lively style and concisely integrates the large body of scholarship that emerged with the new British histories in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Britain in Revolution

By Austin Woolrych,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Britain in Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the definitive history of the English Civil War, set in its full historical context from the accession of Charles I to the Restoration of Charles II. These were the most turbulent years of British history and their reverberations have been felt down the centuries. Throughout the middle decades of the seventeenth century England, Scotland, and Ireland were convulsed by political upheaval and wracked by rebellion and civil war. The Stuart monarchy was in
abeyance for twenty years in all three kingdoms, and Charles I famously met his death on the scaffold.

Austin Woolrych breathes life back into the…


The Thirty-Nine Steps

By John Buchan,

Book cover of The Thirty-Nine Steps

I could never forget the name of Richard Hannay from this book as it’s chiselled into my heart. The first review I had on the first novel I wrote came from a Scottish woman, who was a school headmistress, comparing my protagonist to John Buchan’s (a Scottish Writer) Richard Hannay in his The Thirty-Nine Steps. That review caught the eye of a film producer and the rest, as they say, is history. I had a great time doing about twenty-five or more Waterstone’s Book shop signings and having a six-year paid option for the book to become a thirty-million-dollar film. 

The Thirty-Nine Steps

By John Buchan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Thirty-Nine Steps as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richard Hannay has just returned to England after years in South Africa and is thoroughly bored with his life in London. But then a murder is committed in his flat, just days after a chance encounter with an American who had told him about an assassination plot which could have dire international consequences. An obvious suspect for the police and an easy target for the killers, Hannay goes on the run in his native Scotland where he will need all his courage and ingenuity to stay one step ahead of his pursuers.


Beyond the Empire

By Andrew Tibbs,

Book cover of Beyond the Empire: A Guide to the Roman Remains in Scotland

As detailed, the far north of Roman Britain was never fully conquered. Therefore it was the location of numerous Roman military campaigns, some of conquest and others to suppress aggression and dissent. Each Roman foray north of the border has left its footprint in the form of archaeology, and here Dr. Andrew Tibbs details each such site to enable the reader to visit and interpret them. Highly recommended.

Beyond the Empire

By Andrew Tibbs,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beyond the Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Though Scotland was never successfully conquered by the Roman Empire, the lands north of Hadrian's Wall nonetheless include many Roman sites that bear witness to Rome's attempts to impose her will over the whole of Britain. Beyond the Empire offers a complete listing of all 330 known Roman sites in Scotland, including location maps, details of notable archaeological finds, what is visible on the ground, and how to visit them.


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