QUEBEC-RESEARCH-L ArchivesArchiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2005-04 > 1114295336
Subject: Witch Hunts
Date: Sat, 23 Apr 2005 18:28:56 EDT
Millions of people died because of the Witch Hunts.
FACT: While millions of people might have been affected, the best estimates
of recent historians range from 50,000 to 200,000 dead.
COMMENTARY: The earlier estimates, too often the figure of 9 to 10 million
dead is cited, were grossly exaggerated; no respectable historian supports
them anymore. Modern figures concerning the number of executed witches are based
on a much closer examination of the surviving historical records, combined
with reasonable guesswork and statistical analysis for those areas and periods
lacking clear sources. The hunts were anything but constant, systematic or
That some villages were wiped out by witch hunters is also an exaggeration.
There is little evidence for such devastation. One extreme example is reported
from 1589, where only two women were left in one village in the Trier
diocese after a hunt (Wolfang Behringer, ed. Hexen und Hexenprozesse in
Deutschland, 4th ed. (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 2000), 205, #124). But that
left the men. In any case, such thoroughness and ferocity were extremely
rare. Further, any particular area had hunts irregularly, and many regions had
no hunts at all.
Even the much lower figure of under 50,000 dead would have meant over a
hundred thousand put on trial. Then, considering all the personnel involved in
the justice system as court officials and witnesses, friends and family members,
and those who even felt the "fear" caused by the hunts, millions of people’s
lives changed, usually for the worse, because of the witch hunts.