Life in the 16th and 17th Centuries An overview By Miss Raia
Social Hierarchy • Countryside • Manorial Lords were at the top • Peasants constituted the largest percentage of the rural population • Many owned land • Landless workers earned the lowest wages • Towns • Merchants (bourgeoisie) were the wealthiest and most powerful • Artisans were skilled craftworkers • Laborers did mostly low skilled jobs for low wages • Education – or wealth became means of moving up the social ladder (fortunate few)
Demography • “Long 16th Century” • Population grew steadily between 1450 &1650 • Leveled off by 1650 until 1750 (beginning of IR) • Nuclear, patriarchal family structure • Life expectancy • Avg men – 27 years • Avg women – 25 years
Witch Hunts • Causes • Popular belief in magic • “cunning folk” – helped villagers deal with tragedies such as the plague, physical disabilities etc • Claims power often by the elderly or impoverished and especially women • Catholic Church – claimed that powers came from either God or the devil • Used witch hunts to gain control over village life in rural areas
Witch Hunts • Causes cont. • Women were seen as “weaker vessels” and prone to temptation: constituted 80% of victims • Most between ages45 and 60 unmarried • Misogyny – hatred of women • Most midwives were women – if babies died in childbirth midwives could be blamed • Religious wars and divisions created a panic environment – scapegoating • Leaders tried to gain loyalty of their people by protecting them against “witches”
Elizabethan England • Queen Elizabeth I passed a new and harsher witchcraft Law in 1562 but it did not define sorcery as heresy. • Witches convicted of murder by witchcraft were to be executed but the punishment for witches in England was hanging, not burning at the stake which was the terrible death that was inflicted on French and • Spanish witches. Lesser crimes relating to witchcraft resulted in the convicted witch being pilloried. • Torture was not allowed as part of the investigatory or punishment procedure for witches. • As the Witchcraft Law did not define sorcery as heresy the matter of religion was not involved in the prosecution of witches. • The attitude of Queen Elizabeth was certainly more lenient than those of her neighbors in France and Spain. • Her mother, Anne Boleyn had been accused of being a witch ( Anne Boleyn had a sixth finger growing from her fifth small finger. Anne also had a prominent mole on her neck - these deformities were seen by her enemies as a sure sign that Anne Boleyn was a witch.) • Queen Elizabeth was known to consult John Dee and she also showed an interest in Astrology. Perhaps these explain her leniency towards witches.
Essex Witch Trials • In the 1580s, 13% of assize trials in Essex were for witchcraft. • 64 were accused and 53 were found guilty. • The accused were tried for maleficium, the use of diabolical power to cause harm, not for heresy. • Most of the accused confessed to the charges although torture was not allowed as part of the investigatory or punishment procedure for witches. • The first witch trial to appear in a secular court in England resulting in a series of witch trials in Chelmsford, Essex. • The prosecution of women as the main victims of witch hunts • The First of the Chelmsford 'witches' was the decrepit Elizabeth Frances. • Elizabeth Frances confessed to using a familiar cat called Sathan in order to harm various people. • The cat was given to Agnes Waterhouse and her daughter Joan Waterhouse. • Elizabeth Frances was sentenced to one year in prison but poor Agnes Waterhouse was hung. Her daughter, Joan, was found not guilty • The Second Chelmsford Witch trial of 1579 once again brought the unfortunate old Elizabeth Frances to answer accusations of witchcraft, along with several other women ' They were found guilty and hanged
Timeline of Elizabethan Witchcraft and Witches • The Renaissance period brought about the following events which culminated in Witchcraft Acts and Laws being passed in England. • The following timeline of Witchcraft and Witches describes the growth of the belief in Witches and Witchcraft: • 1486 Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), published by two Dominican inquisitors vividly describing the satanic and sexual abominations of witches • 1521 - Pope Leo X issues a Bull ensuring that the Religious Courts of the Inquisition would execute those convicted of Witchcraft • 1542 King Henry VIII passed the Witchcraft Act against conjurations and wichescraftes and sorcery and enchantmentes. His second wife, Anne Boleyn, was accused of being a witch • 1545 The word occult first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary meaning "that which is hidden or is beyond the range of ordinary apprehension and understanding" • 1547 Repeal of 1542 Witchcraft during the reign of King Edward VI, the son of Henry VIII, who was more liberal in his thinking about witches and witchcraft • 1562 Elizabethan Witchcraft Act was passed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It was an act 'agaynst Conjuracions Inchauntmentes and Witchecraftes'. • 1566 The Chelmesford Witches. The first witch trial to appear in a secular court in England resulting in a series of witch trials in Chelmsford, Essex. The first woman to be hanged for witchcraft was Agnes Waterhouse
Timeline of Elizabethan Witchcraft and Witches • The Agnes Waterhouse trial in Chelmsford produced the first Chapbook relating to witchcraft • 1579 The Windsor witch trials • 1579 The second Chelmsford witch trials • 1582 St. Osyth Witches of Essex (the case was tried at Chelmsford) • 1584 The Discoverie of Witchcraft was published by Reginald Scot following the Chelmsford witch trials. Reginald Scot argued that witches might not exist • 1587 Clergyman George Gifford publishes 'A Discourse Concerning the Subtle Practices of Devils by Witches and Sorcerers' • 1589 The Third Chelmsford witch trials • 1593 The trial of the Warboys witches of Huntingdon • 1593 George Gifford published 'A Dialogue Concerning Witches and Witchcraftes' • 1597 Publication of Demonology by James VI of Scotland (later James I of England) • 1604 James I released his statute against witchcraft, in which he wrote that they were "loathe to confess without torture."
End of the Witch Hunts • Scientific Revolution of the 18th and 17th centuries discredited superstition • Advances in medicine • Witch trials had become chaotic – accusers could become the accused • Protestant Reformation emphasized God as the only spiritual force in the universe • Yet trials did occur in great numbers in Protestant countries • Some literature of the 16th and 17th centuries implied that people had a large degree of control over their own lives and did not need to rely on superstition.