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Witch-Hunting In England And Poland: Similarities And Differences

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Chapter Summary

In recent years scholars have significantly reduced the estimates of the number of witchcraft executions in all continental European countries. A comparison between Polish and English witch-hunting must follow two lines of inquiry. First, the relative lenience, by European standards, of both English and Polish witch-hunting from 1550 to about 1650 requires explanation. Second, the increase in Polish prosecutions after 1650, at a time when English witch trials were coming to an end, must also be explained. The divergence between Polish and English witch-hunting after 1650 was facilitated by two fundamental differences in the criminal justice systems of the two countries. The first concerns the use of torture in the prosecution of crime. The second important difference between English and Polish justice was that English judges from the central courts exercised much greater control over the prosecution of crime than did their counterparts in Poland.

Keywords: England; Poland; witch-hunting



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