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Reader’s Comment: There’s more to witchcraft than meets the eye of a newt


In response to Chris McGovern: A-levels in witchcraft are the Blob’s PC Halloween treat, ThrawnJanet wrote:

As an educational expert, Mr McGovern, obviously you’ll welcome a proper discourse around the subject with alternative viewpoints.

So how about considering that this subject may be offer an excellent background to one of the most fascinating centuries in English and European history; one which saw two kings overthrown, the consolidation of the concept of the nation state and the full flowering of English literature. And it follows on naturally from the the reign of Good Queen Bess, the inclusion of which I’m sure you’d insist on in the history syllabus (though I suspect you might prefer all those executions of priests to be glossed over).

What better place to start than Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s raciest and most accessible plays with a relevant message for today’s politicians, written as it was to play to James I’s fascination with and fear of witchcraft? Even if Shakespeare got it all wrong, Macbeth was a relatively benevolent King of the Scots and Duncan a tyrant, but then who cares about Scottish history?

Then there’s the sorry tale of the Pendle Witches, nothing to do with the supernatural of course but a lot to do with land disputes, anti-Catholicism and resentment of powerful women, and a history that involves everyday people and not just kings and battles.

I could go on. What’s not to like? Plenty of material for robust debate about all kinds of things. Unless, of course, one believes that the study of history should just be a single narrative, that of that the winners and the powerful. But you wouldn’t take such a narrow view of history, would you Mr McGovern?

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