Study by economists suggests a new explanation for the explosion in witch hunts in the 17th centuryBreaking News
tags: religion, Salem Witch Trials, witch hunt
The Salem witch trials of the 1690s have an iconic place in American lore. But before the Salem witch hunt, there was the “Great Hunt”: a larger, more prolonged European phenomenon between 1560 and 1630 that led to 80,000 accusations and 40,000 deaths.
Why’d it happen? Well, as with the Salem witch trials, there are a lot of theories. In the past, scholars have suggested that bad weather, decreased income, and weak government could have contributed to the witch trial period in Europe. But according to a new theory, these trials were a way for Catholic and Protestant churches to compete with each other for followers.
In a forthcoming Economic Journal article, economists Peter Leeson and Jacob Russ lay out their argument that the two churches advertised their finesse at persecuting witches as proof that they were the best church to join if you wanted protection from Satan. Witches, after all, were doing the bidding of Satan; so getting rid of them was a way to protect people from him.