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The Science of Demons

22 June 2020

Cardiff historian publishes introduction to early modern demonology

The latest book from a Cardiff historian brings together nineteen experts from Argentina to Israel, and Australia to the United States.

Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History Dr Jan Machielsen explains that The Science of Demons: Early Modern Authors Facing Witchcraft and the Devil is an homage to two seminal works in the field:

“The idea came around 2016, when I realized that there were two important anniversaries approaching but no one had done anything to commemorate them. In 2017, it would be forty years since the publication of the Damned Art of Witchcraft, an important volume of chapters on individual witchcraft authors, and twenty years since the publication of Stuart Clark’s ground-breaking Thinking with Demons, which for once and for all proved that intellectual, cultural and religious historians could and should study early modern demonology.”

In effect, The Science of Demons uses the model of the Damned Art to explore where the study of demonology has led since 1997.

Dr Machielsen adds: ‘Thinking with Demons was an 800-page tour de force that showed us that there was no one sort of demonology, but that early modern writers were interested in it for all sorts of political, religious, scientific and other reasons. We are hoping that The Science of Demons captures that versatility further, by looking at a range of authors from different backgrounds and living at different times and places. The chapters can act as stand-alone companions to individual demonological texts like the infamous Malleus Maleficarum but I hope that the book as a whole can act as an introduction to the study of the field.’

The book has already garnered substantial praise. Valerie Kivelson (University of Michigan) praised the book as ‘rare hybrid: a significant scholarly contribution that is also good fun to read’, whereas Lyndal Roper (Oxford) described it ‘an extraordinary achievement’.

Machielsen is excited by how the book looks: ‘The production team at Routledge have done an excellent job. I can only hope that the book’s contents live up to the high praise and high production values.’

Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History, Dr Jan Machielsen is working in the fields of early modern cultural, religious and intellectual history. His book Martin Delrio: Demonology and Scholarship in the Counter-Reformation was listed as one of History Today's Books of 2015.

The Science of Demons: Early Modern Authors Facing Witchcraft and the Devil is published by Routledge.

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