The historical anthropology of witchcraft

Eucalypta by Jean DulieuAn historical anthropological approach to witchcraft does not primarily imply the use of anthropological research on the subject, for instance about Africa, in historical research concerning Europe. The issue is more complex and abstract. To present some of my ideas about it, I have included three documents:

– Anthropological influences: a translation of the section `Anthropologische invloeden’ of the chapter Typen van toverij (Types of witchcraft) in: Peter te Boekhorst, Peter Burke & Willem Frijhoff (eds), Cultuur en maatschappij in Nederland 1500-1850. Een historisch antropologisch perspectief. Meppel/Amsterdam and Heerlen (1992): 319-363, esp. 331-334.

– the paragraph on `The Researcher’s Position’ in: The Witch, her Victim, the Unwitcher and the Researcher. The Continued Existence of Traditional Witchcraft, in: Willem de Blécourt, Ronald Hutton & Jean La Fontaine, Witchcraft in Twentieth-Century Europe. London, Athlone (1999): 141-219, esp. 154-158.

– my reaction to Ed Bever’s The Realities of Witchcraft, in: Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft 5 (2010): 103-107.


Ph.D. Thesis

The main focus of this page, however, is to give an overview of my work on witchcraft in English and German; I started with writing articles in Dutch (original English summaries are included). There are brief references to the Dutch context if necessary.

I have studied anthropology at the University of Amsterdam where courses included witchcraft. These were, however, all about witchcraft in various regions outside Europe. When I discovered that witchcraft had been a regular feature of local Dutch history, I had found one of my main areas of interest. My Ph.D. thesis, defended at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, focused on five centuries of witchcraft in the Dutch province of Drenthe. It was published as Termen van toverij: de veranderende betekenis van toverij in Noordoost-Nederland tussen de zestiende en twintigste eeuw. Nijmegen, SUN, 1990. In English it translates as Words of Witchcraft: the changing mean