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A History of Witchcraft

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  290 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
For nearly thirty years, Jeffrey B. Russell's authoritative book has been the one illustrated history to which anyone interested in this subject could turn with confidence. Now, in collaboration with Brooks Alexander, who has himself conducted innovative research in the field, this classic book has been fully revised, with an updated introduction and bibliography, new info ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 216 pages
Published March 26th 2007 by Thames Hudson (first published January 1st 1980)
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Carrie (The Butterfly Reader)
It's well written but sometimes I found it hard to follow with how it just goes on and on. It would've been better cut in some places to trim the fat. There are a few things that I thought was a little gray and might be confusing to some people that are new to this subject.

The pictures were lovely, I did love that little extra tidbit. Overall, this would be an okay starting point but I would dig deeper into other things and books. Do not let this be the only book you read on this subject.
Lisa M.
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
At places in the text, the author's bias shines out, which makes it hard to take the whole text without a grain of salt. He admits in the last chapter of the novel that he is not a neopagan or a witch. He does not have to be a neopagan or a witch to write a successful book on this topic (and to be honest, it is good he is not. Too many uninformed young neopagans think that they are linked to the witch-craze when they are not.) But, I shouldn't have been able to sense judgmental overtones through ...more
Cynthia Austin
Reads more like a text book and I'm having trouble retaining anything useful.
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book and a great resource. They clearly break down European 'witchcraft' as distinct from sorcery which is a cross cultural phenomenon and nearly ubiquitous in history. Provides social context and goes far beyond the witch trials of the 1500-1600s. Lots of great historical artwork and photographic plates included.
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: witchcraft-2016
Decent overview of witchcraft throughout history. The last section on neopagan witchcraft is the weakest of the three parts, but decent source materials are listed in the bibliography, so the curious can dig deeper if they choose.
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: never-finished
I never did read this. I just looked at the pictures. It's long-winded. I got it some time ago. I'm going to put it someplace where someone can have it for free.
Steve Cran
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Magick and sorcery have been with mankind since the beginning. Witchcraft being the most popular branch of of has perked the curiousity of many people. This book give a real accurate accounting of it's developement spanning from man's humble beginnings up until the present. This book lays it out in a simple to understand format with the main ideas of the author expressed and then supported by trackable facts. There are a few details that are left out that those who are familiar with the modern c ...more
Seth Pierce
I read this book as part of researching connections of spiritualism/neo-paganism to neo-pentecostalism. the book is weak on its ancient practices and feels rushed. I would like more on the practices of those contemporary to ancient Israel. The author is also weak theologically stating that St. Paul was against women. However in his treatment of the stereotypical imagery that grew out of the "witch-craze" movements and the Malleus Malificarum he does quite well. He also succeeds in demonstrating ...more
May 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyable light summertime reading, with really lovely illustrations! I saw this book on the recently-returned book cart at my college library and jumped at the chance to read this before I left college forever. I recently took a class on the late medieval/Renaissance period and so I already knew a lot about the history, but this book goes more in depth about that era. I also knew nothing about more modern witchcraft/wiccan practices (aside from generally knowing that a ton of lesbian ...more
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is really a history of the idea of witchcraft, which avoids many of the more hysterical pitfalls of other books in this area. It charts how sorcery became associated with charges of heresy in the middle ages, and the rise of so called wicca in the modern era, which was largely made up in the early 20th Century! Burton Russell does a good job of pricking the bubble of hysteria that usually surrounds the subject and gives us a thorough going historical account.

Readable, lavishly illustra
Stephen Simpson
Mar 30, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
All in all, a pretty poor work. Much of the historical content can be found in better books and while the author freely dismisses many scholarly theories/opinions, he offers minimal evidence to support his position(s). He is, however, surprisingly gentle in his treatment of the nonsense that is the modern "wicca" movement, though he does do a pretty good job of underlining how much of it is basically made-up psuedohistorical nonsense.
Apr 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is an extremely cheesy-looking book, but despite it's New Age bookstore-meets-junior high history book lay-out and design, it's a remarkably completely complete work, covering that which people call witchcraft from prehistory to the middle of this decade. Probably most intersting was the less covered stuff, like a quick overview of 20th century scholarship on the phenomenon, and the section devoted to modern witchcraft/wicca as an invented religion/tradition.
Steve Wiggins
Jun 09, 2014 rated it liked it
A pretty good introduction to witchcraft that covers most of the history of the phenomenon. It has a good deal of information, and, as many Thames and Hudson volumes, copious illustrations. A good place to start getting information on the much misunderstood word "witchcraft." See more at: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.
I'm not familiar with the topic. it was intetesting to read and get a broad panorama of the issues dealt with . good selection of images. not much to say since i'm not a historian and havn't done research on the subjet.
Miranda Hency
Jan 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
I had to read most of this for a history class I was taking and then read the rest on my own. Very informative and interesting information. I learned so much about witchcraft that I didn't know before.
Feb 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From what I read, this is a well-written well-researched book, that seemed to lack the heavier personal opinions that litter many of the books on this subject. Unfortunately, I checked this book out from the library and someone had cut out large chunks of chapters.
Megan Malinowski
Apr 28, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book rather boring, and I was looking for more insight on Wicca, but I didn't really get that much reading this book. I didn't read it to the end because I found it hard to get through, and it's not an American book, so I wasn't used to the writing style.
Sep 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pagan
Very detailed and extensive (with little tiny print). More than you might bargain for, but true to its title.
Apr 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Background reading prior to vvitch film release. Interesting reading.
Jul 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I read this in one night... I couldn't put it down.
Mills College Library
133.4309 R9643 2007
rated it it was ok
Jun 19, 2013
Brad Thompson
rated it it was amazing
Oct 05, 2009
C.M.J. Wallace
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Nov 17, 2013
rated it really liked it
Jun 12, 2013
rated it it was amazing
Sep 29, 2011
rated it it was amazing
Jun 03, 2017
Andreli Zanirato
rated it it was ok
Mar 23, 2017
Sarah Lang
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May 26, 2017
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Jeffrey Burton Russell is Professor of History, Emeritus, at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Besides UCSB, he has taught History and Religious Studies at Berkeley, Riverside, Harvard, New Mexico, and Notre Dame. He has published seventeen books and many articles, most of them in his special field, history of theology. He is most noted for his five-volume history of the concept of the ...more
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