war on witches

King James I published a book of ‘Daemonology’ in 1597. It was a handbook on how to recognize and destroy witches. We discover how it sparked a viral outbreak of witch-hunting, initially in Britain, and later spread across the world, notably fuelling the Salem witch trials which terrorized parts of the US a hundred years later.

programme information


1 x 60'

Production Company

Quickfire Media





Episode Information

In the late 16th century Europe was in the grip of a witch hunt fever, where thousands were tortured and burnt at the stake. The church was fully behind this terrifying crusade. In France and Germany alone up to 40,000 people may have been killed as witches. But England and Scotland were almost untouched by witch persecutions until King James himself decided to launch his own, personal war on witchcraft. In 1597 King James VI of Scotland published 'Daemonology', a handbook on how to recognise and destroy, witches. It fuelled waves of witch hunting throughout Britain. The legacy of that book led to the torture and execution of hundreds of women in a series of witch trials. This film reveals the purges in many areas of Britain drew directly on James' book. And for the first time, remarkable new archaeological evidence from Cornwall suggests that witchcraft was actively practiced for centuries, even during the most intense periods of witch-hunting.

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