"This fascinating and important book centres on an unusual episode in 1607-
— Robin Briggs, University of Oxford
"... a delightfully layered and deep picture of a community ... a pleasant, conversational read with something of the feeling of a novel. ... the author is keen to remind us of the reality and, indeed, the suffering of those whose lives she chronicles. ... Rye Spirits is a good story and a good history, well told."
— Marion Gibson, The Seventeenth Century
"... In its sheer breadth and depth and detail ... Gregory's story has a European feel to it, if only because English records are generally too sparse for such a reconstruction. ... Rye Spirits ... reaches deeply into the thicket of English religious and political conflict before the civil wars, demonstrating seamless links between the temporal and metaphysical worlds that shaped seventeenth-
— Malcolm Gaskill, Continuity and Change
"This highly informative book ... uses ... this well-
— Brian P. Levack, Journal of British Studies
"Fascinating … skilfully composed to engage non-
— Ben Burt, anthropologist, British Museum
This book reconstructs the story behind a witchcraft case from the town of Rye in Sussex that is unlike any other recorded in England. The mayor was both judge and prosecutor—a combination made possible by his extraordinary authority, conferred by the charters of the Cinque Ports, to try capital felonies such as witchcraft. When the previous mayor died suddenly in 1607 and witchcraft was suspected, the bench collected a voluminous dossier of witness testimony. The survival of any evidence at all is unusual—most accounts of English witchcraft cases have to rely on printed pamphlets, the early-
This inchoate body of testimony brings to life the concerns and even the speech of inhabitants—enabling the author to give a richly detailed account of life in early-
The course of the case was complicated by the intervention of the government, who apart from suspecting malpractice on the part of the Rye magistrates, saw an opportunity to challenge the privileges of this semi-
The spirits of the title range from fairies playing pranks on the inhabitants of Rye, to angels announcing the impending apocalypse. They are also, perhaps, the ordinary people of Rye—independent spirits, many of whom have bit parts in this extraordinary story.
Paperback 234 x 156 mm
320 pp. + 8pp col. section 20 B&W illus.
Available through any bookseller price £15
Read sample chapters online