A bewitching day at university for pupils from a Coventry school

News Page 15th November 2018

From stake burnings to spiritualism, fact, fiction, and popular culture is full of references to witchcraft; so, on the eve of the launch of the latest film from the Harry Potter dynasty, a group of sixth form pupils have delved deeper into the history of witchcraft.

The group of Year 12 and 13 pupils from Coundon Court School in Coventry, who are all studying A-Level History, spent the day researching the historical origins of witchcraft with experts from the University of Northampton.

Tim Reinke-Williams, Senior Lecturer in History said: “Witchcraft and belief in witches has a long history in Europe, dating back to antiquity, but as a specialist in early modern history, I’m interested in understanding why the number of people prosecuted for allegedly practising witchcraft rose in the decades from 1560 to 1660”.

“My research focuses on gender, so I’m drawn to the topic by the fact that so many of those accused (although not all) were women.  However, as I discussed with the visiting students today, to understand the cause of the witch-craze fully, you need to understand the broader social, economic, religious and political contexts in which the trials took place.”

“The witch-craze is a popular topic amongst undergraduates, and as well as covering it as part of a broad survey of early modern European history, my colleague Cathy Smith runs a third-year module dedicated to the subject.  I very much enjoyed meeting and chatting to the students from Coundon Court School on campus today, and I hope the workshop helps them with their A-Level projects.”

Anna Tierney, a Year 12 pupil from Coundon Court School, said: “Visiting the University today has made me think about what life at university might be like if I was to apply.

“I’m actually studying witchcraft at school at the moment, so today has given me more ideas for sources to include in my work and has given me a good knowledge base that I can build on for me own study.

“I’m really excited for the future, now I’ve spent at a day university.”

Thomas Malby, Head of History at Coundon Court School, who is also an alumnus of the University of Northampton said: “There was a great deal of excitable chatter after the seminar, where they really relished the opportunity to discuss their findings and deepen their understanding in an academic environment with a true expert. I am very grateful to the history staff for running a session for our students and look forward to continuing to work together.”

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