In this ground-breaking book, Professor Norman Cohn traces popular beliefs about witches to their origins. He examines the fantasies that inspired the great European witch-hunt of the 16th and 17th centuries when thousands of innocent people were tortured and burned alive. It is a fascinating history of the need to imagine antihuman conspiracies and an investigation of how those fantasies made the great European witch-hunt possible. In addition, Professor Cohn's discovery that some influential sources on witch trials were forgeries has revolutionized the field of witchcraft studies, making this one of the most essential books ever written on the subject.
Norman Cohn was born in London in 1915 and educated at Gresham's School and Christ Church, Oxford. Scholar and research scholar at Christ Church between 1933 and 1939, after the war he taught in universities in England, Scotland, Ireland, America and Canada. In 1966 he became a Professorial Fellow in the University of Sussex and director of an international research project on the preconditions for persecutions and genocides. From 1973 to 1980 he was Astor-Wolfson Professor at Sussex and is now Professor Emeritus. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and the author of Warrant for Genocide and The Pursuit of the Millennium (also in Pimlico).