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Witchcraft and Rebellion in Late Seventeenth-Century Devon

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image of Journal of Early Modern History

The case of three women from Bideford, Devon, tried and executed for witchcraft in 1682, provides a unique glimpse into the interaction between popular culture, print media, and political parties of the Exclusion Crisis era. The judicial records of the case are fairly limited, contained only in missives from the Calendar State Papers Domestic, and the memoirs of the trial judge. Publishers in London, however, provided a much greater range of source material to the reading public, including a heavily edited transcript of depositions that created the accepted version of the proceedings, and entirely fictitious accounts that bore little relation to the actual events. The needs of both the print media and the political parties distorted the actual incidents of the case, but provided the only memory of it for popular culture.


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