Love Spells and Lost Treasure: Service Magic in England from The Later Middle Ages to the Early Modern Era

Research output: Book/ReportAuthored book


The study builds on and contributes to work in the history of practical magic. Although studies in magic in medieval and early modern Europe have focussed on several different aspects of its theory, practise and reception, there has not been a specific focus on the reception, use and perception of practical magic in England which takes into account the temporal changes which took places during the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries. As such, this study provides additional insight into the social makeup of England and its relationship with everyday magic, and how this altered during the period.

The analytic focus on popular culture as portrayed in literature, and patterns of use as shown through statistical analysis, provides another contribution to our understanding of late medieval and early modern England. This study analyses the uses to which magic was put, by whom it was commissioned, to what extent it was tolerated, and how it was portrayed in order to achieve the above goal. Although numerous studies have identified that magic was a part of late medieval and early modern life in passing, little analytical attention has been paid to how this would have might on an everyday basis. I address this issue by exploring magical activity in detail, using trial records documenting ‘real’ magicians, and analysing magic’s portrayal in a range of literature.

Ultimately, this book shows the ubiquity of service magic across all social classes, estates, and genders, and argues that it is too fundamental a part of pre-modern life to be treated as an anomaly that can be side-lined. I show that practical magic was in continuous use throughout the late medieval and early modern periods, but that the way it was viewed, and the manner in which service magicians were treated, changed over time.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages300
Publication statusSubmitted - 2022


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