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Unit information: Modern Witchcraft in 2021/22

Unit name Modern Witchcraft
Unit code HIST30112
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Will Pooley
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Witchcraft has never gone away.

This unit takes a global approach to witchcraft after the early modern ‘Witch Craze’. Who believed in witchcraft in Europe in the 18th-20th centuries? How were fears of harmful magic related to colonialism, and the postcolonial world? How have ideas about witchcraft shifted with new scientific thinking?

The unit will draw on the rapidly expanding recent body of work on modern witchcraft to explore examples including European ‘cunning folk’; the Occultists; policing colonial witchcraft; ‘voodoo’ and other syncretic belief systems; modern Wicca; satanic abuse panics; and contemporary human rights challenges. Far from belonging to the distant past, some authorities have argued that modern-day violence is the greatest epidemic of witch-persecutions in history.

The unit will expose students to a range of examples with a focus on three key questions:

What is ‘modern’ about modern witchcraft?

What makes witchcraft real to the people who use and fear it?

How is witchcraft different in different modern contexts?

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Analyse and critique the ‘modernity’ of modern witchcraft phenomena.
  2. Contrast varying examples of witchcraft across the globe, identifying differences and similarities.
  3. Synthesise and evaluate primary sources to build wider arguments about cultural change and continuity.
  4. Critically assess existing historical interpretations and independently challenge these using techniques from other disciplines.
  5. Demonstrate advanced writing, research, digital and presentation skills, as well as the ability to learn and contribute to group tasks and discussions.

Teaching Information

Classes will involve a combination of class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Information

1 x 3500-word Essay (50%) [ILOs 1-5]; 1 x Timed Assessment (50%) [ILOs 1-5]


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. HIST30112).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.