Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England

Front Cover
Penguin UK, Jan 30, 2003 - History - 880 pages
Witchcraft, astrology, divination and every kind of popular magic flourished in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, from the belief that a blessed amulet could prevent the assaults of the Devil to the use of the same charms to recover stolen goods. At the same time the Protestant Reformation attempted to take the magic out of religion, and scientists were developing new explanations of the universe. Keith Thomas's classic analysis of beliefs held on every level of English society begins with the collapse of the medieval Church and ends with the changing intellectual atmosphere around 1700, when science and rationalism began to challenge the older systems of belief.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - KarelDhuyvetters - LibraryThing

This is my kind of book! Thoroughly researched with all the sources at the bottom of every page, beautyfully written, clearly expressed ideas, a surprising or enlightening fact or remark in almost ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - heidilove - LibraryThing

this is a thought-provoking book, but i'm not convinced that thomas makes the point he claims in the title. if magic has declined, or our sense of it, then i shudder to think of what it once was. Read full review


Cunning Men and Popular Magic
Magic and Religion
its Practice and Extent
its Social and Intellectual Role
Astrology and Religion
the Crime and its History
Witchcraft and Religion

The Decline of Magic
Prayer and Prophecy 6 Religion and the People
Magical Healing
The Making of a Witch
Witchcraft and its Social Environment

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2003)

Keith Thomas is a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was formerly President of Corpus Christi College and, before that, Professor of Modern History and Fellow of St John's College. RELIGION AND DECLINE OF MAGIC, his first book, won one of the two Wolfson Literary Awards for History in 1972. He was knighted in 1988 for services to the study of history.

Bibliographic information