This essay discusses the role of the Protestant clergy in witch hunts in France. The sixteenth century was the period when beliefs in the existence and persecution of witches were widely common, particularly in Europe. It was a historical period wherein there is a predominant witch craze…
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The sixteenth century was also a time in Europe wherein there was an influx of immigrants of people from the countryside to the cities. Because the town people were predominantly peasantries: poor people, merchants, artisans, small traders, laborers, beggars, and vagrants, the increase in urban population also resulted in increasing poverty and increasing gap among social class between the poor and the bourgeoisie. It was also the period wherein the Roman Catholic Church was challenged by Italian Renaissance that somehow affected its efficacy to impose social control (Morris 1998). It was these social dynamics and moral panic—challenging the Church; increasing social struggles and dilemmas; increasing population and poverty; growing dichotomy between social status; and the rise of Protestantism; have lead towards widespread witch hunt during the sixteenth century Europe. By understanding the interconnected dynamics of social institutions and social constructs that provide guidelines for keeping the members of the community in line, it would be easier to understand the forces that compel and drive witchcraft.
The wide-spread Witch hunt or ‘craze’ that predominates sixteenth century was a form of social control to suppress (or invoke) moral panic. When a society is gripped with the problematic and deviant behavior of its members—“the evil they do or are thought to do,” there is a collective sentiment that serious steps must be undertaken to ensure the preservation of the social fabric. Thus, the evil threat must be addressed to repair the damage by controlling these deviant behaviors and punishing the perpetrators. Unless immediately rectified, the growing social crisis could stir up heightened emotion, anxiety, hostility, threat, and fear that could cause social panic and changes in status quo.
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