Scotland's Witch-Hunts and the European Reformation


Tami Burt

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Publication Date

Spring 2021


Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, witch trials were commonplace throughout Europe. This paper focuses on Scotland where there were between 4,000 and 6,000 people tried as witches within the Scottish court systems, a much higher number than in any other nation of the British Isles. There are several theories as to why such as, changes in the social expectations and accepted behaviors brought upon by church doctrines, hardships from wars and famine, and a fear of the new sexual role that women began to portray at this time. Through the analysis of both secondary and primary sources, this paper argues that the Reformation is one of the leading causes for the witchcraft trials in Scotland and Europe. Furthermore, a combination of religious beliefs, economic frustrations, and new political upheavals within the realm of Scotland led to the higher rates of accused and executed witches in Scotland. This paper provides a better understanding of the causes and factors involved in the witch hunts in Scotland.


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