Origins of the Witch Hunts
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The first true witch hunts began in western Europe in the early fifteenth century. The earliest series of trials took place in Italy and in French- and German-speaking regions around the western Alps. Of course, concern about harmful sorcery had deep roots in medieval Europe, and both officially sanctioned prosecution and popular persecution had been brought to bear on its supposed practitioners long before. But only in the fifteenth century did the full stereotype of diabolical witchcraft develop, which would endure throughout the period of the major witch hunts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Western Tradition edited by Richard M. Golden. Copyright 2006 by ABC-CLIO. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission of ABC-CLIO, LLC, Santa Barbara, CA.