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Natalie Grace

History, University of Nottingham

Thesis title:

Witchcraft in Print in Early Modern Germany and England

My thesis is a comparative study of ideas about witchcraft in early modern Germany and England. It draws on a variety of sources grouped under the broad category ‘popular print’; these include broadside ballads (Lieder), single-sheet broadsheets (Flugblätter), occasional news pamphlets (Flugschriften), and printed sermons (Predigten). Despite being textual sources, this group of sources also incorporate aspects of oral and visual culture. Given that the majority of the population in both countries in the early modern period was illiterate or only semi-literate, the intersection of textual, oral, and visual culture provided by these sources offers important insights into ideas that reached a far wider audience than the learned treatises which have often been the focus in studies of witchcraft. The thesis covers the period 1560 to 1700. While there is scattered evidence of print discussing witchcraft prior to 1560, it is only after this point that witchcraft becomes a notable topic in popular print. Peaks in discussions of witchcraft in print occurred in Germany in the 1580s and again between 1610 and 1630; peaks in England occurred later, between 1640 and 1660 and in the 1680s. The chronological scope of my thesis enables exploration of these peak periods in both countries and comparison of the ideas that emerged from them.

The core aim of this thesis is to illuminate the commonalities and divergences in ideas about witchcraft in Germany and England. On the face of it, the experiences of witchcraft in the two countries could not have been more different. Approximately 25,000 people were executed for witchcraft in Germany, whereas in England the number of executions was around 500. Nevertheless, there are some similarities between the two countries that enable further exploration. Both experienced significant religious and political upheaval during the early modern period, events which impacted witchcraft beliefs and witch-hunting. They both also had vibrant print industries and witchcraft appeared in many different printed sources, such as those mentioned above. Historians are increasingly recognising the potential of comparative research to offer new insights into the field of witchcraft research which is still largely focused on regional analysis. A detailed comparison of witchcraft in Germany and England has not previously been undertaken. The thesis also seeks to explore the notion of ‘popular print’ more broadly and considers the position of witchcraft within this culture. Why did printers, publishers, and writers choose to write and print works discussing witchcraft? How significant is witchcraft in wider popular print and what does this suggest about the position of witchcraft in early modern worldviews? To address these questions, this thesis investigates the role that witchcraft played within broader themes including crime, identity and gender, and the importance of space and place in witchcraft narratives.




Research Area

  • History

Publications

Grace, N., ''"Vermin and Devil-Worshippers": Exploring Witch Identities in Popular Print in Early Modern Germany and England', Midlands Historical Review, 5 (2021). Available here.

Grace, N., Review: The Routledge History of Witchcraft, edited by J. Dillinger, Journal of British Studies, 60/1 (2021), pp. 186 – 88. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/jbr.2020.153.


Conferences

2021

Unfamiliar Familiars? Comparing Witches' Encounters with Demons in Early Modern English and German Print, Date TBC, University of Kent, Medieval and Early Modern Studies Festival. 

Contemplations on Comparative History, 24th February, University of Nottingham, History Postgraduate Work in Progress Seminars. 

2020

"Vermin and Devil-Worshippers": Exploring Witch Identities in Popular Print in early modern Germany and England 1560 - 166021st October, University of Nottingham, Department of History Research Seminar. 

"Vermin and Devil-Worshippers": Exploring Witch Identities in Popular Print in early modern Germany and England 1560 - 1630, 5th September, University of Nottingham, Created Identities Conference. 

"A Magazine of Scandall": Witchcraft in the Press in early modern England and Germany, 15th July, University of Nottingham, History Postgraduate Work in Progress Seminars. 

Fake News: Facts and Falsehoods in the Osnabrück Hexenzeitungen (1588 - 1596), 13th July, Midlands4Cities Digital Research Festival. 

Publications, Popular Opinion, and Gender in the Context of Witchcraft in the Holy Roman Empire 1480 – 1560, 9th January, German Historical Institute London Postgraduate Conference.

2019

Approaching Archival Research Abroad: Workshop, 2nd December, University of Nottingham, History Postgraduate Work in Progress Seminars.

1520 – 1560: A Quiet Spell in the German Witch-Hunts? Poster Presentation, 21st May, Midlands4Cities Research Festival, Birmingham. 


Public Engagement & Impact

Early Modern Men Conference Co-organiser (March 2021 - February 2022).

History Lab Publicity Officer, Institute of Historical Research (September 2020 - July 2021).

M4C Digital Research Festival Co-organiser, Midlands4Cities (May 2020 – July 2020).

Co-founder and Co-organiser of History Postgraduate Work in Progress Seminars, University of Nottingham (September 2019 - August 2021). 

History PGR Course RepUniversity of Nottingham (October 2019 - October 2020). 


Other Research Interests

Reformation and Counter-Reformation History
Gender
Popular Culture 
Print Culture


Memberships

German History Society (2018 – present) 

Institute of Historical Research History Lab (2020 - present) 

Training and Professional Development

Teaching

Teaching Affiliate, University of Nottingham Department of History (2019 - 2021). 


TLDP A5 Developing a Scholarly Approach to Teaching and Learning, Professional Development, University of Nottingham (February 2021). 
TLDP A3 Assessing and Giving Feedback, Professional Development, University of Nottingham (December 2020).
TLDP Introduction and A1 Designing Learning, Professional Development, University of Nottingham (November 2020).
Training to Teach in History, University of Nottingham Department of History (Autumn 2020). 
Small Group Teaching,  University of Nottingham Graduate School (December 2019). 
Preparing to Teach in Higher Education, University of Nottingham Graduate School (October 2019). 
Lecturing for Learning, University of Nottingham Graduate School (October 2019). 
Marking and Giving FeedbackUniversity of Nottingham Graduate School (October 2019). 


Research

German Script Course (Two-week residential),  Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, PA, USA (June 2019). 
Adobe InDesign Poster Workshop, Midlands4Cities (May 2019). 
German Palaeography CourseGerman Historical Institute London (January 2019). 
Beginners' Latin (Audited module)Department of Classics and Archaeology, University of Nottingham (October 2018 - May 2019). 

Awards and Grants

2019

German History Society Small Research Grant (£981.06), September 2019.

Awarded to contribute to costs of archival research trip in Bavaria, Germany. This research trip was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

2017

W.R. Fryer Prize (£150), June 2017.

Awarded for best final marks in BA History at University of Nottingham in academic year 2016-17.