Witchcraft, astrology, divination and every kind of popular magic flourished in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, from the belief that a blessed amulet could prevent the assaults of the Devil to the use of the same charms to recover stolen goods. At the same time, the Protestant Reformation attempted to take the magic out of religion, and scientists were developing new explanations of the universe. Keith Thomas' classic analysis of beliefs held on every level of English society begins with the collapse of the medieval Church and ends with the changing intellectual atmosphere around 1700, when science and rationalism began to challenge the older systems of belief.
Keith Thomas is a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was formerly President of Corpus Christi College and, before that, Professor of Modern History and Fellow of St John's College. RELIGION AND DECLINE OF MAGIC, his first book, won one of the two Wolfson Literary Awards for History in 1972. He was knighted in 1988 for services to the study of history.