Over the last few days, I have been preparing for an upcoming talk to a historical society in Essex. It’s about witch trials — of which Essex has plenty — and it is thoroughly depressing.
Depressing but interesting! I remain endlessly fascinated by the weird thing about people that witch trials exemplify. There’s this strange habit of being attached to legal procedure while simultaneously acting like a bunch of pirates. I don’t know how else to describe it, but you see it in lots of these times of political and social crisis. It makes the trial transcripts fascinating reading, examples of the ways in which people use the tools they have to deal with the situations they face. The result is that weird conflict — you can’t either go “oh those primitives” or “they’re just like us!” and that’s the thing about history I find really entertaining.