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This volume arrives with high praise. The book ‘[d]eserves to become another classic’, opines Peter Burke at the top of the front cover. It ‘[c]ompletely overhauls our view’, observes Ronald Hutton somewhat further down. The work itself is not shy of ambition either. Both the title—The Decline of Magic—and the subtitle—Britain in the Enlightenment—promise sweeping panoramas.
Mark Goldie has been one of the most influential interrogators of England in the later 17th and early 18th centuries.
The Birth of Modern Belief is seriously good. It is erudite, insightful, and cogent; but, above all, it enables us to think hard about the relationship between our past and our present.
Since the turn of the millennium it has become increasingly common for general histories of magic and witchcraft to include a section on the phenomenon of magic in the contemporary western world, but the precise relationship between contemporary manifestations of magical belief and their historical antecedents is rarely explored.
This is an extremely ambitious, thought-provoking, challenging and inspiring book.
Thomas Ahnert’s The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment is an unusual work. Little more than an extended essay, its brevity and lucidity belie the complexity and force of its central thesis. Whilst there is no doubt that the book represents an important historiographical intervention, it is rather harder to explain why or where it does so.
Exile has long been central to our understanding of certain Early Modern topics. The flight of English Protestants, and then Catholics, to the Continent in the 16th century, or the exodus of Huguenots (many to England and Ireland) after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in the 17th, are perhaps the best known examples to UK audiences.
The first rigorous academic overview of witchcraft in Ireland, this publication is a very welcome addition to a growing corpus of scholarship on this relatively neglected aspect of Irish social and cultural history. For decades, St John D. Seymour’s Irish Witchcraft and Demonology (1) was the only academic text on the subject available to researchers.
Post-reformation English Catholicism continues to be a flourishing and popular field of enquiry. In recent years this upsurge of interest has been paralleled by an increasing body of work on early modern ‘superstition’ and popular religion.
This important work provides the first informed, well-researched and highly nuanced account of the fortunes of ‘occult’ thought and practice in England from the middle decades of the 17th century to its demise at the end of the 18th century.