THE DEVIL IN EARLY MODERN ENGLAND
By Darren Oldridge, published by Sutton Publishing at £20. 224pp HBk. ISBN: 0-7509-2092-0 (Reviewed by Brian Hoggard)
This book is a detailed account of how the devil manifested in the records of the early modern period (essentially around 1550-1800). The chapters are all neatly organised into different categories including The Devil and the English Reformation, Women and the Devil, Possession and Exorcism and also a chapter dealing with Witchcraft and the Devil.
The book is quite an easy read even though it is written to academic standard. It's the kind of book that those with an interest in the Devil would read enthusiastically, and learn an awful lot about the early modern period along the way - almost by accident. If you're hoping for a supernatural account of Old Nick with details of how early modern folk invoked him, though, you'll be disappointed. This book looks at what people said and thought about the Devil, providing quotes from real people of the time which illustrate the way the Devil was perceived. And lots of good quotes there are too.
The book explores the impact that the Reformation, Puritans, witchcraft and many other influences had on the perception of the Devil but never loses sight of the Devil's roots in folklore. It is clear after reading this, that notions of the Devil were very strong and ancient and no one influence in society could appropriate it for it's own ends. In fact, it seems clear - that even with Protestant's giving strong messages about what was and was not permissible, people still had strong views about the Devil which did not fit in with the overall Protestant message.
This is an important and interesting book. It's not just about the Devil. You'll learn about Possession and Exorcism, Witchcraft and all sorts of other things along the way. The early modern period covers around 250 years, so the information in this book has substantial coverage. This book covers the key period of the witch-trials, so it's important to understand how the Devil was perceived at this time and this book provides that. If you're interested in the Devil at all - buy this book!