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Emotions in History: Witchcraft and Plague

Date: Monday 22 May 2017
Time: 4:30–6pm, with afternoon tea from 4pm.  
Venue: Room 275, Global Change Institute (Building 20), The University of Queensland, St Lucia
RSVP: uqche@uq.edu.au or phone 07 3365 4913.
All welcome.

Please register by Thursday 18 May.

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The history of emotions is a field of intellectual inquiry concerned with the idea that emotions, and our ways of expressing them, are neither innate nor necessarily universal, but instead emerge historically, in relation to various social, cultural, political or environmental conditions. This seminar will introduce participants to the key questions and methods of emotions research as these have been brought to bear within the discipline of history. The focus will be on two case studies from early modern England: witchcraft and plague.

Witchcraft and Emotions in Early Modern Europe

Between 1450 and 1750 more than 50,000 people were executed for witchcraft in Europe. Witches were believed to use their ties with the Devil to hurt or murder their neighbours, to lame or kill cattle, to make men impotent, or to destroy children. Witches were often viewed as men and women who had lost control of their emotions and given into their evil desires. Performing witchcraft was not viewed as a rational act: rather, it was believed to be motivated and sustained by strong emotions such as anger, rage, greed, envy, hatred and, sometimes, love.

Divine Wrath and Godly Sorrow in Plague Time

Plague occurred with seasonal regularity in England from the mid-fourteenth to the late seventeenth centuries. This phenomenon, which indiscriminately killed men, women and children, was believed to be the work of God’s divine wrath for human sin. In times of plague, Protestants advocated the power of humble fear and godly sorrow to alter God’s terrible judgement. These godly emotions could be cultivated through reading, praying and sermon-going; their expression gave providential meaning to plague and generated hope in salvation.

The seminar is open to all, and will count toward CPD targets for secondary teachers of history.

Dr Charlotte-Rose Millar is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at The University of Queensland and an Associate Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (Europe 1100‒1800). Her book, Witchcraft, The Devil and Emotions in Early Modern England,is forthcoming with Routledge in 2017.

Olivia Formby is a Master of Philosophy candidate in the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry at The University of Queensland and in the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (Europe 1100‒1800). Her thesis ‘Under the Wrath of God: Emotional Communities of Plague in Early Modern England, 1631‒1638’ was completed in April 2017.


Image: Frontispiece woodcut by an unknown artist, from Performance at the Blocksberg (Blocks-Berges Verrichtung) by Johannes Praetorius [Hans Schultze], 1668 and 1669 editions.